Happy People: A year in the Taiga

Washington, D.C. Premiere Paradise on earth? Through Werner Herzog’s lens, that is what Bakhta, a village on the river Yenisei in Russia’s far north, might seem like, especially if you don’t mind the cold. “What looks like winter to us,” Herzog tells us in this breathtaking, rich and frequently funny documentary, “is spring in the heart of Siberia.” He and collaborator Dmitry Vasyukov capture the local people – nearly always in companionship with their dogs – making their own tools, trapping sable, felling trees to build boats, fishing, harvesting food for the long winter and holding ceremonies for the turning of the seasons. Plus they share their perspectives on greed, war and mortality, as the camera notes the arrival of modernity, in the form of helicopters and snowmobiles. “They live off the land and are self reliant, truly free,” Herzog says. “No rules, no taxes, no government, no laws, no bureaucracy, no phones, no radio, equipped only with their individual values and standard of conduct.” (—Telluride Film Festival) Narrated and written by Werner Herzog. Directed by Dmitry Vasyukov. Produced by Vladimir Perepelkin, Nick N. Raslan, Charlie Woebcken and Christoph Fisser.

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