Happy People: A Year in the Taiga

Watch Happy People: A Year in the Taiga

"The director of Cave of Forgotten Dreams and Grizzly Man takes you on an epic journey into the heart of the Siberian wilderness"
  • NR
  • 2010
  • 1 hr 34 min
  • 7.7  (8,810)
  • 74

Happy People: A Year in the Taiga is a 2010 documentary directed by legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog. The film follows the lives of the indigenous people of Bakhta, a small village in the heart of the Siberian Taiga. The documentary is an ode to simplicity, resilience, and the human spirit that thrives in one of the world's most inhospitable environments.

The film is divided into four parts, each representing one season of the year in the Taiga. The story starts with the spring, where we see the villagers preparing for their yearly trapping expedition. They build their own skis, sleds, and traps, and then set out into the forest to catch sable, ermine, and other animals for their fur. Herzog's camera captures the beauty of the snow-covered Taiga, but also highlights the dangers that come with living in such a remote place.

In the summer part of the film, we see the villagers fishing in the Yenisei River, catching salmon and whitefish. We also witness their unique method of preserving fish, which involves burying it in the ground for months until it ferments into a kind of fish cheese. The community is seen working together to gather the fish, building and maintaining their boats, and enjoying a sense of community that outsiders would struggle to comprehend.

The autumn section is concerned with the preparation for winter, which is when the majority of the villagers' work is done. They gather firewood, cut logs, and build their own homes, all while preparing to face months of isolation amongst the snow and freezing temperatures. The film shows the villagers' deep respect for nature and their understanding of the cycles of life and death. We are given a glimpse of the timelessness that characterizes their lifestyle—a world that has remained unchanged for centuries.

The final section of the documentary takes place in the depths of winter, where the heart of the film lies. The Taiga is blanketed with snow, and the only sounds are those made by the villagers' sleds and the barks of their dogs. The film captures the twilight of traditional Taiga life when the young generation is leaving to cities in search of a better life. It is also an acknowledgement of the harshness and the unromantic aspect of the Taiga, where survival takes precedence over any other aspect of life.

Throughout the documentary, Herzog presents a respectful and reverent portrayal of the villagers. He allows them to tell their own story, in their own language, without imposing any narrative structure or judgment. The film is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of the human spirit, set against the backdrop of one of the world's harshest and most unforgiving environments.

The cinematography in Happy People is breathtaking. Many of the shots are simple and unembellished, showcasing the beauty of the Taiga and the daily rhythms of the villagers. However, the simplicity of the visuals is deceptive, as the documentary is a technical marvel. The scenes in the Taiga seem almost impossibly remote, yet the film crew was able to capture every frame with remarkable clarity and precision.

In conclusion, Happy People: A Year in the Taiga is a beautiful and engaging documentary that immerses its audience in the world of the indigenous people of Bakhta. While the film is certainly an ode to the simplicity and beauty of traditional Taiga life, it is not a romanticized portrait. Instead, it is an honest and respectful celebration of a people who have found a way to thrive in one of the world's harshest environments. Through this film, Herzog reminds us of the immense richness and variety of human life, no matter how remote or different from our own.

Happy People: A Year in the Taiga is a 2010 documentary with a runtime of 1 hour and 34 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.7 and a MetaScore of 74.

Happy People: A Year in the Taiga
Where to Watch Happy People: A Year in the Taiga
Happy People: A Year in the Taiga is available to watch free on Plex, Tubi TV and Kanopy. It's also available to stream, download and buy on demand at Amazon Prime, The Roku Channel, Apple TV, Amazon and Vudu. Some platforms allow you to rent Happy People: A Year in the Taiga for a limited time or purchase the movie and download it to your device.
  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 34 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    7.7  (8,810)
  • Metascore