Blu-ray Review: Dawson City: Frozen Time

Bill Morrison may not be a name you’ve seen up in lights but he’s doing a vital job when it comes to preserving our past. The American documentary film-maker and hunter of lost treasures has directed around thirty shorts and features so far in his (relatively) short career. He specialises in delving into rare, often damaged, archival footage and working with the best contemporary composers to produce memorable moments of cinema. Creating glimpses and shadows of collective shared memories. His latest film, Dawson City: Frozen Time, is arguably his best.

Dawson City is buried in the far west of Canada. Today, it’s the second biggest town in Yukon (with a population of well under 1500 inhabitants). In its current entity, it was founded during the Klondike Gold Rush at the end of the nineteenth century. It’s estimated that around one-hundred thousand prospectors descended on the region hoping to make their fortune. In 1978, five-hundred silent era films were found buried below a swimming pool. Morrison weaves together these rare finds with archive footage, newsreels and photographs to piece together the story of a town’s history.

Dawson City: Frozen Time is a captivating portrait of a place which once found itself at the centre of history. Alex Somers provides the score for what is a heady mix of insight and entertainment. Morrison builds up his tale through a montage of beautiful imaginary and archival reports; using the films to illustrate how the community developed. Also emphasising the importance of the moving image for the residents. Dawson City: Frozen Time is a spellbinding documentary which is part history lesson, part compelling visual narrative.

Blu-ray special edition contents:

• High-definition presentation approved by director Bill Morrison.
• An exclusive, newly filmed interview with Bill Morrison.
• The Letter (2018) – Bill Morrison’s short film.
• Dawson City: Postscript (2017) – a filmed update to the story.
• 8 selected, original film reels from the Dawson City Film Find:
– British Canadian Pathé News, 1919 (includes 1919 World Series)
– International News Vol. 1, Issue 52, 1919
– The Montreal Herald Screen Magazine 1919
– Pathé’s Weekly #17, 1914
– The Butler and the Maid, Thomas A. Edison Inc., 1912
– Brutality, D.W. Griffith, Biograph Company, 1912
– The Exquisite Thief, r.2, Tod Browning, 1919
– The Girl of the Northern Woods, Thanhouser, 1910

• 24-page booklet with writing on the film by Kristin Thompson and a new essay by curator Gareth Evans.
• 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio or Stereo 2.0 audio options.
• Theatrical trailer.
• English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.
• Region free Blu-ray (A/B/C)

Dawson City: Frozen Time is released on Blu-ray and DVD by Second Run on 18 February.

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