Filmmaker Werner Herzog features a population that is self-sufficient in Happy People: A Year in the Taiga. It is taken in the center of Siberia and they live that way in order to survive. It is also part of their heritage.
Herzog takes the audience on an enlightening journey to the extremes of humanity. In the past, the filmmaker brought notable documentaries such as Encounters at the End of the World, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, and Grizzly Man. In Happy People: A Year in the Taiga, he shows the lifestyle of indigenous people living far from civilization in the heart of the Siberian wilderness.
It features the 300 people living in the small village of Bakhta at the river Yenisei. You can reach the area either by boat or by helicopter. There are no phones, medical aid, or running water in the village. The villagers’ daily routines have remained the same over the last centuries. They have their own cultural traditions and values.
The documentary starts in the short summer that leads to spring, when the cast make their preparations until autumn. It shows how they live through winters with the temperature not going up more than 30 degrees below zero.
Herzog follows trappers as they do their daily chores for over a year. They prepare shelters, traps, huts, and wooden boats from scratch. Other than axes, hammers, chainsaw and snowmobile, they use primitive tools. Hunters are skilled because bullets are expensive and rare.
Hunters live a difficult life and they follow their own ethics and morality. There are no other laws or regulations they must follow. Hunters value a good dog, which is not just a pet for him. A dog is a helper, a companion, and a fellow hunter.
Herzog doesn’t make any grand statements with Happy People: A Year in the Taiga. He doesn’t compare them from people from the rest of the world. He lets viewers come up with their own conclusions.