The Last Dogs of Winter

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“You can walk through the valley of the shadows of death and fear no evil; they will protect you like you wouldn’t believe!” — Brian Ladoon

Director: Costa Botes
Year: 2011
Country: New Zealand
Running time: 97 mins

Editor: Costa Botes
Producers/Photography: Costa Botes, Caleb Ross
Music: Tom McLeod

With: Brian Ladoon, Caleb Ross, Dave Daley, Mike Macri, Penny Rawlings

Festivals: Toronto, Amsterdam Documentary 2011

We’re delighted to present the New Zealand premiere screenings of NZIFF veteran Costa Botes’ spectacular documentary. The Last Dogs of Winter has already been winning friends for its ornery conservationist hero and his more camera-friendly young Kiwi assistant at major film festivals around the world (Toronto, IDFA and more). It also serves, for those of us unable to make the journey ourselves, as an immersive visit to Churchill, Manitoba, Polar Bear Capital of the World. — BG

“For the past 40 years, in a remote and harshly beautiful corner of northern Manitoba, Brian Ladoon has devoted his life to preserving and breeding an endangered species: the Qimmiq, Canada's indigenous Eskimo dog… A wilderness lover’s delight… this intimate, gorgeously rendered documentary intelligently surveys Ladoon’s quixotic mission, the numerous obstacles he faces, and the uneasy co-existence of man, animal and nature in the small town of Churchill (pop. 873)… 

Botes comes to Ladoon’s story through fellow New Zealander (and producer) Caleb Ross, a former actor [The Tribe]. As a 20-something, the adventuresome Ross travelled to Canada for love, but, as he notes, the affair went south and he went north, enticed by a job posting that read, ‘Come to Churchill, breed Eskimo dogs, see polar bears’… 

Filming with a lightweight HD camera and only his wife as crew… Botes intercuts artfully shot interviews with spectacular outdoor scenes. Among the most captivating are those of the chained dogs interacting with the curious bears, and the lumbering white bears gamboling with one another in the snow.” — Alissa Simon, Variety

NZIFF STAFF PICK: Felicity Drace, Sibilla Paparatti