By Lee Cahill
Happy People: A Year in the Taiga is a meditation on wilderness, winter, solitude, and man’s relationship to nature in the vein of Robert Flaherty’s 1922 film Nanook of the North. The footage was originally taken by the film’s Director, Dmitry Vasyukov, for a series of four one-hour films. Upon seeing this footage, iconic filmmaker and documentarian Werner Herzog came onto the project as a producer, condensed the footage into a single film running 1 1/2 hours, and added his hallmark narration.
The film primarily follows one hunter in the remote village of Bakhtia through the harsh months of the hunting season in the Siberian region of the Taiga. This humble yet wise character uses a combination of modern and ancient techniques to create traps, carve his own skis, build shelter, and hunt with the aid of his trusty dog. “To see dogs in this film puts having them in cities and the suburbs to shame,” said Herzog prior to the DOC NYC screening at the IFC Center. He added that the people in this film are indeed very happy (hence the title), and that they don’t want to be pitied – they enjoy and have a deep pride for the way they live.
If you love dogs or logs, this film is for you! More Herzog, please. Love that guy.