We live in a country where things are often handed to us without our having to do any hard work. Hunting, gathering and living by the resources in the environment is something that reminds us of our ancestors. But these somewhat ancient traditions are still alive all over the world, in places like Bakhtia, Serbia. “Happy People: A Year in the Taiga,” is an award-winning documentary that captures the lives of hunters and trappers in Bakhtia, a village in the heart of the Siberian Taiga. This strikingly beautiful film reminds us of the struggles that people face when trying to survive in the wilderness.
The film directors followed some Siberian hunters around for a year to document their ways of survival. One hunter recalls visiting Taiga in 1970 and how he was immediately employed. They told him to get ready, and gave him a gun, some traps and some money. He and his partner were only 20-years-old when they were sent to Taiga. They had nothing; no radios, no food, no telephone and no running water. The man recollects his past saying, “It’s a long story — but I survived, interestingly enough.”
The hunters are first shown towards the end of winter when they must complete some tasks before the arrival of spring. These tasks include cutting wood, fishing and hunting. Because of the wild animals in the area, including bears, the hunters are only accompanied by their dogs. One man says, “you are no hunter without a dog.” Before their arrival in Taiga, the hunters choose a pup to raise as their own. Once the dogs are fully grown, they embark on the journey to Taiga with their owners, helping them gather food and hunt. To get to this place, the hunters must travel by boat or helicopter, further reinforcing the remoteness of Taiga.
During spring, the hunters make equipment by hand. They craft canoes from scratch, and hunt for ducks and fish. When spring is over, the hunters build houses during the summer from the wood they collected during the winter. From hunting animals to building homes from the ground up, the only thing that annoys hunters are mosquitoes.
When spring is over, the hunters must quickly build homes and gather fruits and food before the arrival of fall. When winter arrives, they repeat the process and leave for Taiga to go hunting again. One hunter finds peace and independence in being a hunter saying, “Hunting is the best because I am my own man and nobody tells me what to do.”
“Happy People: A Year in the Taiga” is a remarkable documentary that captures a story of everyday survival. The Natural History Museum of Utah is hosting a Science Movie Night on Tuesday, April 5 at 7 p.m. at the City Library where the film will be screened for free.