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Happy People: A Year in the Taiga (2011)

Werner Herzog , Werner Herzog , Dmitry Vasyukov  |  NR |  DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Werner Herzog
  • Directors: Werner Herzog, Dmitry Vasyukov
  • Format: Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Music Box Films
  • DVD Release Date: April 23, 2013
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00AXYZZ6C
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #47,166 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Happy People: A Year in the Taiga" on IMDb

Editorial Reviews

With Happy People: A Year in the Taiga, Werner Herzog takes viewers on yet another unforgettable journey into remote and extreme natural landscapes. The acclaimed filmmaker presents this visually stunning documentary about the life of indigenous people living in the heart of the Siberian Taiga. Deep in the wilderness, far away from civilization, 300 people inhabit the small village of Bakhtia at the river Yenisei. There are only two ways to reach this outpost: by helicopter or boat. There's no telephone, running water or medical aid. The locals, whose daily routines have barely changed over the last centuries, live according to their own values and cultural traditions. With insightful commentary written and narrated by Herzog, Happy People follows one of the Siberian trappers through all four seasons of the year to tell the story of a culture virtually untouched by modernity.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ANOTHER EXTREME LIFE EXAMINED BY HERZOG March 10, 2013
Format:DVD
Filmmaker Werner Herzog (GRIZZLY MAN, ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD, CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS), is drawn to extremes and the challenging edge on which some people live their lives. With co-director Dmitry Vasyukov, Herzog takes us the remote heart of the Siberian Taiga and the village of Bakhtia, where about 300 people live on the bank of the Yenisei River virtually untouched by the modern world. This isolated wilderness has no phone connection, running water or medical assistance and can only be reached by river or chopper. With the exception of power saws and snowmobiles, the people maintain their culture and live as they have for hundreds of years, maybe much longer. Herzog’s distinctive narration covers and colors the life of one trapper through four seasons as he hunts, makes his skis, boat and hunter’s cabin. So much was unsaid, but what was on the screen was mesmerizing. It’s good to be reminded that in our day, part of our human family lives in a world nearly unfathomable to the one we enjoy. Big recommendation.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not prime Herzog but rewarding nonetheless July 7, 2013
Format:DVD
***1/2

"Happy People: A Year in the Taiga" is the latest in a series of nature documentaries by Werner Herzog (here with co-direction by Dimitry Vasyokov), this one chronicling life in a Siberian village over a twelve-month period. Bakhta is located alongside the Yenisei River in the Taiga Forest, and the inhabitants there have been eking out an existence under some pretty challenging conditions for centuries now (this is Siberia, after all). We watch as they make preparations for trapping, build cabins in the wilderness, fashion out canoes from old tree trunks, fish in the river, fend off bears and mosquitoes, and store up supplies for the brutal winter to come. For this is life as it is lived in one of the most misbegotten outposts of civilization. As Herzog himself says, these people resemble early Man from a distant ice age. And, yet, as the title implies, the inhabitants of Bakhta are far from unhappy with their lot.

This is reflected most in the many wise and canny observations about the value of hard work and the cyclical nature of life emanating from one of the town's most seasoned citizens, a sort of rural philosopher who`s been trapping in that area ever since the Communist government dropped him off and left him to fend for himself more than forty years ago. It is his commentary, more than even Herzog's own voiceover narration, that draws the viewer into this strange and unfamiliar world, one that is striking in both its harshness and its stark beauty (the image of a massive river of thawing ice heading swiftly northward during the spring is not one that will be easily forgotten).

This isn't Herzog's most innovative work by a long shot, but if anthropological studies are your preferred fare, this movie will surely fit the bill.

However, a warning may be in order for the hypersensitive viewer: this is NOT a movie that comes with the proviso, "No animals were harmed in the making of this film."
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Man and his Dogs April 25, 2013
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This documentary takes place in The Taiga Forest eco-region of Eastern Siberia, and as the story opens and various people are interviewed,they all seem to be truly happy although they are all living a hardscrabble existence, and would surely all qualify for government assistance in our country. Yet the men in this community who make their living by trapping [sables primarily] seem to think they have the best of all worlds, in that they are free to choose, work enough to survive and provide for their families, and then enjoy what appears as a cohesive community life with all the others in their small village of approximately 300 people total. The main character Gnady [spelling], a trapper exclaims at the beginning of his interview that no man can ever be considered a true trapper without his dog[s]. He has two hunting dogs at the time of filming, of some mixed lineage, but I would say looked mostly like what you would expect in this hard land - Siberian Huskies. He praised all of them, including the ones who were now too old to hunt with him and whom he says will eat as well as the working dogs. He also calls them his pensioners. Like all true dog lovers he brags about their various exploits and expresses how saddened he is by the fact that his best dogs died too young as both his favorite female and male companion were killed by the same bear, which he quickly dispatched but not before it had killed his two companions.

Gnady is also very proud of his own self sufficiency in the forest, showing how he actually built a hut and and a pair of skis. They fell the trees for the hut and skis, with their most modern piece of equipment being a chain saw.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a life of quiet desperation June 30, 2013
By Chase
Format:Amazon Instant Video|Verified Purchase
Happy People: A Year in the Taiga

Having just re-watched Nanook of the North)recently, Herzog's Happy People revisits people who live hand-to-mouth in a place where the summers last about as long as a Twitter trend and the winters determine your every action in life. We meet our central characters with a much more serious tone than we met Nanook and his family almost one hundred years ago. Instead of Canada, however, they subside in Siberia with semioccasional modern conveniences (chainsaws and snowmobiles are all that come to mind). The landscapes sometimes remind me of the bleak Wisconsin winters of Stroszek and other times mosquito-infested shots from Grizzly Man.

More importantly, however, is the way the camera reads their faces. These are mostly trappers, men of small stature and tall on wisdom. This is not the stuff of John Colter from The Lewis and Clark Journals or some tough guy with a big truck that defines his manhood-- his existence-- with the fact that he shoots mammals and will show you pictures on his Android if you give him five seconds to get started. No, these are a dying thread of man's survival through the last Ice Age. You see it in their eyes.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars mildly entertaining and informative.
Worth the money, Very nicely done documentary. It was very interesting seeing how other cultures live without the modern conveniences that we are accustomed too.
Published 1 day ago by christopher
5.0 out of 5 stars Real life- elsewhere
Just a wonderful movie. Makes you reflect on your life and how it compares
with a culture in another reality. Africa is not the only outpost in the world. Read more
Published 6 days ago by cc-1
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Interesting
Fascinating goes to show you how sometimes a simple life is so hard. I highly recommend this movie very good.
Published 11 days ago by Kirk
5.0 out of 5 stars TOTALLY INTERESTING
If you want to feel like you have an easy life watch this documentary on life where it takes all of your energy just to live!
Published 14 days ago by Bonnie Motgan
5.0 out of 5 stars Top of the line documentary
This is one of the very finest films I've watched in a very long time. It follows the life of a trapper in the Tiaga. And what a life. Read more
Published 20 days ago by Dorey E. Evans
4.0 out of 5 stars A year of good living with simple means
A history and cultural overview of those who live with the land. How they survive, comfortably in winter and summer and on rivers.
Published 1 month ago by Scott M. Kruse
5.0 out of 5 stars loved the relationship these people have with their dogs.
If you are interested in man's relationship with dogs, this film is a must-see. The dogs, a breed known as the Laika, is a primitive, wolf-like all purpose dog. Read more
Published 1 month ago by C. Coombs
4.0 out of 5 stars Narrow perspective dilutes fine documentary
Once again, Werner Herzog is off the beaten track with this excellent 90-minute 2010 documentary. In the heart of the Siberian Taiga (where temperatures plummet to minus 50C in... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Lemons
4.0 out of 5 stars Happy People: A Year in the Taiga
This is a very good video that I highly recommend to anyone. Everything that Herzog does is interesting, but I gave it a 4 because it dragged in a few places. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Geraldine J
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but poor HD quality
We paid for the HD version but I don't think it was delivered as such--I saw no distinction in the resolution, saturation, and so on, that would make me think it was HD. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Chuck Green
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