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Jennifer Merin

Review: 'Happy People: A Year in The Taiga'

By January 28, 2013

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In Happy People: A Year in The Taiga, famous filmmaker Werner Herzog dwells on the lives of subsistence hunter-fishermen and their families in isolated village of Bakhta, in the remote and pristine Siberian wilderness.

During the winter the men spend months in solitude, working in the snow clad woods, migrating from hunting hut to hunting hut, with only a trusted dog for a companion. They must survive freezing weather and avoid life-threatening bears, and return home to see their families only for the New Year celebration. In summer they must slather their skin with homemade tar to dissuade swarms of mosquitoes from feasting on them.

But, on the up side, they are never hampered by the bustle and bureaucracy of contemporary city life.

Herzog's 94-minute feature, focusing on two main characters -- one a Russian, the other an ethnic Ket -- is actually cut from Russian filmmaker Dmitry Vasyukov's four-hour long documentary epic, originally made for and broadcast on Russian television.

Is Herzog's condensed take on his subjects' day to day living and their annual pursuits actually grounded in observed reality? Or does he give us his personal spin?

For my take on Herzog's narrative, and some surprising revelations about Herzog's relationship with this film's subjects, read my full review.

(PHOTO: 'Happy People: A Year in the Taiga' Poster Art. Courtesy Music Box Films)


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