Dawson City

Shotgun Cinema New Orleans, LA


Bill Morrison



Snowden Becker

Program Manager of Moving Image Archive Studies at UCLA

Dawson City: Frozen Time— Natural conditions: How nature preserved nitrate film

Director Bill Morrison and noted film archivist Snowden Becker discuss Morrison's found-footage filmmaking process, working with nitrate film, and the resurrected Dawson City film collection.

Shotgun Cinema New Orleans, LA

Film Synopsis

An exploration of a massive cache of rare silent films unearthed by a bulldozer in 1978 from the permafrost beneath a busted Gold Rush boom town.

This meditation on cinema’s past from Decasia director Bill Morrison pieces together the bizarre true history of a long-lost collection of 533 nitrate film prints from the early 1900s. Located just south of the Arctic Circle, Dawson City was settled in 1896 and became the center of the Canadian Gold Rush that brought 100,000 prospectors to the area. It was also the final stop for a distribution chain that sent prints and newsreels to the Yukon. The films were seldom, if ever, returned. The now-famous Dawson City Collection was uncovered in 1978 when a bulldozer working its way through a parking lot dug up a horde of film cans. Morrison draws on these permafrost-protected, rare silent films and newsreels, pairing them with archival footage, interviews, historical photographs, and an enigmatic score by Sigur Rós collaborator and composer Alex Somers. Dawson City: Frozen Time depicts the unique history of this Canadian Gold Rush town by chronicling the life cycle of a singular film collection through its exile, burial, rediscovery, and salvation.