Parents' Guide to

Happy People: A Year in the Taiga

By Jeffrey Anderson, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 10+

Fascinating Herzog documentary about Siberian trappers.

Movie NR 2013 94 minutes
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This is a fascinating, even touching, movie. Herzog's best assets -- his courage and non-judgmental curiosity – make his documentaries renowned for standing out from the crowd, and Happy People: A Year in the Taiga is no different. The slight drawback here is that, because Herzog wasn't actually there when the footage was filmed, he never personally interviewed his subjects. Consequently, they don't quite achieve the depth of personality seen in some of the director's other films. And none of the subjects is as dramatically interesting (or as exasperating) as Timothy Treadwell, the subject of Herzog's previous "inherited footage" documentary, Grizzly Man. But they make for natural, intriguing, and often likable characters. Herzog's tender, awestruck view of his subjects helps tell their story with care and respect -- as he speaks, his admiration quickly rubs off on viewers. The original footage shot by Vasyukov is striking, lovingly detailed, and certainly feels up to par with anything Herzog himself might have done alone, the shifting landscapes brought to epic life alongside the intimate, very personal stories.

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