In 1978, more than 500 old nitrate films were unearthed in practically pristine condition at the bottom of a frozen swimming pool in Dawson City, Canada. Filmmaker Bill Morrison took that forgotten footage, which dates back to the 1900s and 20s, and paired it with archival footage, interviews, and historical photographs to compose Dawson City: Frozen Time. The film will screen at Bay Street in Sag Harbor as part of Sag Harbor Cinema’s Here Comes the Cinema! series on Sunday, February 16. The afternoon will include a special conversation with Morrison.
Situated just south of the Arctic Circle, Dawson City was settled in 1896. It evolved into the center of the Canadian Gold Rush, drawing 100,000 miners to the area. It also served as the journey’s end for a distribution chain that dispatched prints and newsreels to the Yukon. Dubbed “an instantly recognizable masterpiece” by New York Times film critic Glenn Kenny, the documentary features items from the Dawson City Collection, which includes some of the greatest preserved and sole copies of vintages films, many of which had been lost or damaged. Dawson City: Frozen Time explores the dawn of the 20th century, as well as the Hollywood silent era.
“‘Film was born out of explosive,’ Bill Morrison’s film’s wonderfully haunting opening line, is about nitrate’s flammability as much as about the explosive power of cinema itself,” reflected Sag Harbor Cinema Founding Artistic Director Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan, who will moderate the discussion. “Weaving together the lure of the Western frontier, the search for gold, the making and unmaking of entire cities, with sports scandals and Hollywood silent stars, Dawson City is an epic tale of American early capitalism and a work of art of great, fascinating beauty.”
Many of Morrison’s films combine rare archival footage with original contemporary music. Decasia (2002), with music by Michael Gordon, was the inaugural film of the 21st century to be selected to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry. The filmmaker’s Spark of Being (2010), with music by Dave Douglas, was awarded the LA Film Critics Award for best independent film. His 2011 The Miners’ Hymns, with music by Jóhann Jóhannsson, has “become a phenomenon,” said The Guardian. The Great Flood (2013), with music by Bill Frisell, was commemorated with the Smithsonian Ingenuity Award for historical scholarship, and Dawson City: Frozen Time, with music by Alex Somers, was named to over 100 critics’ lists of the best films of 2017.
The screening will commence at 2 p.m. Admission is $15 for adults and free for children under 14-years-old.
Bay Street is located at 1 Bay Street in Sag Harbor. For more information, visit www.sagharborcinema.org.