The Last Dogs of Winter

DVD now available. Region Free PAL or NTSC. See How to Purchase Films page on this site, or go to http://www.costabotes.co.nz

Official Selection: Toronto International Film Festival 2011 (world premiere) & IDFA – International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam 2011 (European premiere)

Last Dogs Of Winter Shows Preservation Struggle | Stuff.co.nz.

Many thanks to all readers of this blog for your continuing strong interest. 

It’s really gratifying how many people who have viewed this film at festivals have wanted to help contribute towards feeding and looking after the dogs.  Here’s a link where you can make direct contact:

Home | Canadian Eskimo Dog Foundation – Churchill MB Canada.

On a general note, as I have had many enquiries from people wanting to know how and where they can view Last Dogs of Winter, the film is available as a DCP (Digital Cinema Package), which means a file can be provided to any DCP equipped cinema anywhere in the world. I am willing to negotiate special screenings if anyone out there is willing and able to be proactive. Contact your local cinemas and see if you can find anyone willing to run it for a weekend or a week.  I can support this with press kits, poster art, and interviews. As the movie is still being actively promoted to international festivals, this may not be possible immediately in some territories.

Some readers might prefer an introduction to this topic via this Radio Netherlands interview recorded in January: Radio Netherlands Earthshow January 2012

New Trailer

Introduction

In 1976, prompted by advice from Bishop Omer Robidoux (1913-1986), Churchill dog handler Brian Ladoon took on the self imposed mission of preserving and breeding Canadian Eskimo Dogs (aka Inuit Dogs, aka Qimmiq), the rarest registered breed of dog in the world.  His efforts have inspired both admiration and fierce criticism, largely because Ladoon’s dogs share their pitiless natural environment with itinerant wild polar bears, and his practices are seen by some to be inhumane.

The movie does not purport to tell the full history of Eskimo/Inuit Dogs. That would take several films. It is largely present tense and observational, and focused on documenting one place and the unique situation that has developed there due to one man’s tenacious efforts to preserve an animal and a way of life that was on the edge of disappearing. The film presents its subject’s point of view, but also allows an honest and unvarnished look at what he is doing and how he does it. It is likely that audiences will experience shifting emotions, but they will come away able to make more informed judgements.

At the bottom of this page many links can be found that can shed light on the wider world of these dogs, their past, present, and hopefully future.

Overview

In October/November last year I went to the tiny town of Churchill, in Manitoba, Canada, to shoot a new documentary called The Last Dogs of Winter. I knew I’d be well outside my comfort zone, but I could not resist such a compelling story.

For almost 40 years, Brian Ladoon has struggled to breed and maintain a colony of Canadian Eskimo dogs in an environment suited to the dogs unique evolution. Once, these extraordinary animals were the pack horses or tractors of the arctic. Now, they apparently serve no useful function. Technology and cultural shifts made them redundant. They almost died out following the introduction of petrol powered skidoos. Disease, neglect, and organised culling saw numbers reduced from tens of thousands to just a few hundred by the 1970s.

Brian Ladoon was one of only a handful of people whose sentimental attachment to the dogs was such that he took on the responsibility of trying to keep the breed going, at great personal sacrifice.

At this point I want to make it clear, I absolutely acknowledge Brian Ladoon is not some kind of sole saviour of these endangered animals. There are now, and have been many other passionate people committed to the cause of preserving Canadian Eskimo/Inuit Dogs. People like Bill Carpenter (Facts About the Canadian Eskimo Dog – Associated Content from Yahoo! – associatedcontent.com.) were critical to its survival from the early 1970s. He bred and supplied dogs to Inuit in the North, reseeding small populations, and enabling today the small scale continuation of traditional practices, and sustainable adventure tourism ventures.

That is an interesting topic for a well resourced TV documentary, or perhaps for Inuit themselves to make. It’s not the film I have made. I am attracted to charismatic, passionate protagonists who are facing high levels of conflict in their lives, and who have battled for a long time to maintain commitment to their goals. I don’t have to agree with them to admire such characters. Ladoon is such a character. He’s a fascinating and complex man, with great strengths, and certainly flaws as well.

He’s feisty, stubborn, and self righteous. Unsurprisingly, Ladoon has attracted more than his fair share of critics. But there is a remorseless logic to all his choices, and his actions are driven by a love and deep knowledge of both the land and his dogs.

The interface between people, animals, and nature is always a tricky balance in Churchill. Ladoon’s choice of location for his dog colony has created great problems for him, and an opportunity that has excited both envy and disapproval. The dogs share a barren point of land overlooking Hudson Bay that happens to be very popular with migrating polar bears.

This has made Ladoon a target for complaints from locals and tourism operators
who believe he has unfair access to a valuable tourism site; from wildlife purists who decry the habituation of polar bears to humans; and animal rights proponents, who claim he is exploiting both dogs and bears, and endangering both for profit.

It’s a unique situation, to say the least, and I did my best to capture it despite wind, snow, ice, and fogged viewfinders. Toughest shoot I’ve ever done, with the most restrictive shooting conditions.

Tough too to pick a path between representing my subject fairly and accurately, without negating other points of view. I went there with an open mind, and I think I captured something that truthfully represents what I found.

Sentinel dog challenges an approaching bear

An Occasional Post Production Diary 

March 14, 2011

I’m about halfway through breaking down my footage. Many hours of mixed B roll and interviews. It’s going to be a job and a half to make it sing and dance, but I’ll get there. In amongst the shaky cam, and lapses in focus there’s enough “oh my gosh” moments to make a movie. I just have to get them into the right order. Simple!

I should point out here that this is a story really about two men, not only Brian, but the young man who introduced me to this cold world – Caleb Ross. I first met Caleb back in 1999, when he was starring in the cult TV show, The Tribe. I came and went as one of the show’s directors. I’ll refrain from comment on the show, I had no input or responsibility for its creative content; but I always enjoyed working with the cast. Caleb impressed me as a talented guy who put 100% into everything he did.

So I was not altogether surprised to see how well he handled himself in Canada. Driving through blizzards, feeding dogs raw meat by hand while surrounded by giant polar bears, guarding himself and Brian with a shotgun – all very exciting, and real.

The photos on this page are by Caleb too, and we’ll be using some of his video in the movie.

Brian Ladoon (left) Caleb Ross (right)

March 19

I am still quietly slogging through the slow process of breaking down footage. Basically, what this involves is watching it all. Shot by shot. And identifying all the moments of interest. Different editors have different approaches. I like to subclip – to mark, or physically split off the bits that I think I’ll be able to work with later.

This can be a frustrating time. It’s now that one has to face and remember all the moments that didn’t work! That great shot of a distant bear crossing a lake of ice – that’s slightly out of focus because your eyes were weeping so much from the cold you literally could not see. Or the awesome shot of a group of backlit dogs spoiled by a mighty lurch as your wife’s foot slips on the brake! And on and on …

It’s a wonder the ceiling isn’t pock marked with bruises from the anguished oaths rising from the editing table.

But you can’t spend a month shooting without getting something. For all my frustrations and difficulties, I did collect some lovely material. There’s a way to go yet with the logging, and I’m not hurrying, but once that’s over the weaving can start.

Shooting an interview in the field

Getting close and personal with the subject!

March 27

The past week I’ve been taking time out to cut a very short promo. This may or may not be handy for generating advance interest from potential buyers. The problem for me is cutting a promo in advance of actually cutting the movie! It’s a bit presumptious …

On the other hand, doing this kind of work can be a useful creative exploration in itself. It forces you to knuckle down and think – “with only 90 seconds to convey the essence, what can I possibly show that will do the trick?”. You sort of have to answer some fundamental questions to do it. And that kind of thinking ultimately informs the heart of decisions made about the whole movie.

I’ve done two passes at a promo – one at three minutes, and another at 90 seconds. Not bad for a week’s work! Not quite ready yet, but I will share at least one of these online soon.

April 1st

Been experiencing some difficulties with equipment and software not playing as nice as they should, but have managed to create this early teaser promo. A hint of things to come. It’s damn tough to say anything pertinent in under two minutes, but here goes …

It should be obvious immediately that this is a unique situation – a realm where the natural world collides with human interests very directly. The bears provide some incidental drama, but they’re not the bad guys here, and neither is the weather. The cold is a given, and all the animals are well adapted to it. Apart from the odd minor fracas around dog feeding time, by and large everyone gets on. The real problem for these species is the impact of human history – which can be measured in a number of ways I’ll explore in the film.

April 3

Daylight saving is over in NZ. Heading back to winter! Aahhh. Too soon. Working on this movie makes my toes feel cold.

April 12

Man, the last two weeks have been a nightmare and a slog. I thought my tech troubles were behind me, but I was very wrong! Working with a powerful new Mac pro computer, and up to date FCP software. But even so, the Gremlins are determined to make my life miserable. It’s been 2 steps back for every step forward. I don’t want to turn this into a technical forum, because let’s face it, who cares about computers and editing software problems? Yet, they have to be solved to keep moving. The issue is mixing of formats – never a good idea. My own footage is consistent; but I’ve got three years of amcam from Caleb that’s too important to ignore, and that’s been shot with a different camera and frame rate. “A world of hurt” warn some pundits. But I was encouraged to think it was possible. Actually, I know it’s possible, it’s just trying to figure out how, via painful trial and error.

The good news is a lot of ideas are hitting me now. I’m deep into the footage, and more pumped than ever, despite the frustration of crashes and other cyber ills.

Here are two quick clips. Just little sketches.

Some mood music … this was a sketch only, and will not be used in the final film.

Poles Apart

April 18th

Had a long natter with Caleb yesterday via Facebook. He’s put up a Last Dogs of Winter Facebook page with some pic galleries and a little bit more video.

Check it out below.

Meanwhile, I’m starting to get a rhythm on the editing front, though this isn’t an easy one. Lots of voices and differing views. It would be simple to cut a bunch of pictures and stitch it together with narration; and perhaps this would be a more commercial option too. But I’m suspicious of easy solutions. I’ve always tried to let my subjects speak for themselves as much as possible. When you have a character like Brian Ladoon, it makes sense to give him the floor. Not even the most gifted screenwriter could invent the stuff that comes out of his mouth. Pure polar gold!

Signs outside Brian Ladoons area are often vandalised by bears

Shooting off a tripod, a rare luxury

April 21

It’s Easter already? Been cutting a few more little sequences today, plus still breaking down long interviews. It’s the weirdest thing. When shooting, it seems go by really quickly, and one always feels like hardly anything has been recorded. 4 months later, it takes forever to log everything, and you wonder why on earth you had to shoot so much.  The truth is, the more the merrier. Can’t use it all, but more options allow for pacing and variety.

I always knew the biggest challenge with this movie was the fact I’d be confined to the inside of a truck for most of the outdoors stuff. It was simply too dangerous to wander around with a tripod. With the truck windows freezing shut, horizontal sleet, and persistent nagging wind, the challenge became a downright obstacle at times. I was almost ready to risk being spam for a hungry bear, just so I could get free of the damned truck! But wiser heads prevailed, my head stayed intact on my shoulders, and I think I got enough footage anyway.

Male bears Size each other up

Alaska was one of 15 pups selected for shipping to Alaska in November 2010

April 28

It’s official. Wellington must be the coldest place on earth. This can be the only possible explanation for the fact that today I donned much of the same gear I was wearing during blizzards in Northern Canada, just to go down the road. And I still felt colder than I did than at any point during our stay in Churchill.

Okay, I guess the mind plays tricks; and it’s true that a dry cold is nowhere near as nasty as the kind of damp, insidious, rot your bones from the inside kind of cold that creeps up on us here in glorious Wellywood.

Be that as it may, I must be doubly cursed as I have to sit here in a silly rabbit hat and puffy jacket, just so I don’t freeze to death editing pictures of … er … snow and ice.

It’s so much more fun editing than logging. I think I’ll give away logging, and just wing it from now on. Hell, if you can;t remember what you shot, it probably isn;t worth remembering, eh? Better not say that too loud – I might get dragged off to Editor jail.

I have now nutted out what the start and end of the movie are likely going to be. This is essential to the whole enterprise. All the stuff in the middle can go every which way, but a film has to start somewhere, and eventually it has to go somewhere. Without those points to steer by, the journey is certain to be circular, like tracks in a desert. Or snowstorm. Except in a snowstorm, there would not be any tracks for long.

Ah well, onwards. Many bad analogies left to cross.

May 3rd

Making a movie is a bit like climbing a mountain. The view from the bottom can be terribly daunting. It’s not until you get a bit of elevation that the activity becomes more exciting. The higher you go, the more euphoric the view.

Dunno about other film makers, but I always tend to feel a bit low immediately after shooting. Nothing ever works out quite how I imagined or wanted it to go. So it can be a good idea to let footage sit for a while. Just to let some objectivity creep back in.

Which is why I let this one sit for four months. Now at last I’m really tearing into it. The overall concept is holding fine, and both the main characters are emerging as charismatic and interesting personalities. This gives me confidence that whichever way the editing goes – and there will be many (pardon the pun) dog-legs, the end result will be coherent and compelling.

If you’ve been following the comments attached below, you might start to catch a whiff of the potential controversy in this topic.  I will ask that contributors refrain from emotive personal attacks. Factual, reasoned debate will always be welcomed.

May 31

Sorry, it’s been a long while between updates!

What the hell have I been doing? Editing. Pretty much 24/7. The only way I could do this was throw myself into it, and that has meant shutting out the world and just going for it as hard as I could.

The result is I now have a first cut. It’s running a bit long at just over 100 minutes, but it feels pretty good to me. I might even suggest humbly that I’m feeling a bit excited.  I’ve tried to strike a balance between something that’s informative and creative. I’m interested in conveying facts, but much more than that I want people who see the movie to feel something.

Many years ago when I was a little kid, I was very impressed by a Howard Hawks picture set in Africa called Hatari, where John Wayne charges round in a landrover capturing wild rhinos. terribly politically incorrect by today’s standards, but very exciting in the way it depicted the collision of man and nature.

Years later, I was enchanted by Carroll Ballard’s poetic rendering of Farley Mowatt’s memoir of life amongst wolves, Never Cry Wolf. That film had a haunting, bittersweet elegaic quality. It really made me think and ‘feel’ about the issues of man’s impact on the natural order, and the heart rending loss of our wild places and the animals who never asked to be part of our plans.

So here I am, years later, given the amazing opportunity to make a movie that somehow combines all the things I’ve felt and remembered about those two films. You can bet I’ve taken this chance with both hands.

My plan is to preview the current edit, and then continue refining the cut with the benefit of peer review and feedback.

June 17

My thanks to all who have taken an interest and contributed their thoughts, comments, and recollections either to this site, or our facebook page, or otherwise contacted me directly. I’m sorry my attention to blogging has been less than the attention I’ve had to give to actually making the movie.

I’ve never felt so busy in my life. All film projects demand a lot of concentration for long periods, but I’ve not made it easy for myself with two projects overlapping considerably since February.

But I’m glad to say that Daytime Tiger is now thoroughly, definitively completed, and with my teaching duties at Victoria University almost done for the year, that has also freed up some time and mental hard disk space.

So, progress with Dogs of Winter has been very satisfying. On June 2nd I previewed the first cut to a mixed group of friends, professional associates, and total strangers. Very positive reactions on the whole, and a raft of questions; so in answering those questions, and feeling for bumps and flat spots, I’ve made rapid progress revising the edit, and reshaping wherever I felt it could be better.

A new element was a lot of fresh footage collected by Caleb through the coldest part of the Canadian winter. The light at that time can be spectacular, and he duly captured some wonderful imagery of landscape and animals.

I am looking ahead now to another test screening quite soon, but also actively soliciting comment on a new edit from professional colleagues. The aim is really to interrogate everything and explore every way possible to get the most from the material. At the same time, my vision for the film has never changed at all. There’s a certain message and emotion I want it to have, and I keep that target in my head at all times. It helps as the prospect of focusing and shortening the movie comes closer. Not that I was ever in any danger of making Avatar. The older I get the more I squirm in my seat if a picture goes much over 100 minutes. That’s about the ideal length I’m going for.

I guess a lot of readers of this blog would love me to post up a bunch more video from the film, but I’ve been givig that a lot of thought, and it’s not going to happen. The main reason being that I want to preserve some element of surprise or anticipation.

However, we do have a lot of footage that I intend to cut into informative or amusing clips, stuff that can give a taste of the whole without spilling all the beans in the jar.

Here’s another short clip:

June 24

Only a few days to go, and I have to lock off my edit again for another preview. Lots of progress and changes since the last one, but very much building on what was there, with a good deal of revising and refining. It all comes down to structure and story in the end. As David Mamet says, “the story is the story, and if it’s not the story, take it out”.

If only bits of “story” were conveniently colour coded, it’d be much easier to take out the bad bits and keep the good; but luckily it’s not quite that simple!

Frankly, the hardest thing has been keeping the polar bears in their place. they’re so damned cute or impressive, they could easily take over the show. Scene stealers. But this is the Last Dogs of Winter, not Last Bears. Both are endangered, but there are many more bears than there are Eskimo Dogs. So the dogs must come first.

What I have tried to do, however, is zero in on the point of uniqueness this movie documents, which is the inter-relationship between these two animals in one unique space. Some of our footage showing interactions between dogs and bears is quite amazing.

June 29

Last night I previewed a much more advanced version of the movie to a small crowd at Park Road Post’s wonderful theatre. We were able to take advantage of the facility’s state of the art projection and show the movie in full High Definition. After all the hard work, it was nice to sit back and just watch the thing.

I guess it’ll be a long time before I can relax yet, but I’ve made a lot of films, and my own feeling is that the picture is in pretty good shape. The film is driven by a couple of compelling characters, and the way it pulls you into this faraway place and gets you involved in both the day to day lives, and historical plight of Canadian Eskimo Dogs.

Most of the questions or gaps raised by the first preview have now been answered. There were conspicuously less questions last night, which is as it should be. The film is not intended to be a fact filled compendium, but neither should it leave viewers grasping for meaning. I think it’s now quite satisfying as a self contained experience, but will hopefully spur curiosity or inspire people to look further.

So, where to now?

Further small revisions in the edit. But also some serious pre-planning for the next phase of post production. There’s huge scope here for some awesome sound design and I want to make the most of it. Music is a looming task too. And colour grading, plus other image refinements. This is the point where the film finally leaves my hands. But I have every confidence in the folks who will be doing it. They’re highly skilled and creative, and I’ve worked with all of them before, so looking forward to what’s coming next.

July 20th

Wow, did I really say there were just a few little revisions to go? ha ha.

I suppose in the grand scheme of things, my fiddling since the last preview has not been all that major, but it is remarkable how much difference a lot of small changes can make. It’s like cutting a diamond out of a raw stone. The structure or underlying form is there, but you have to bring it out as perfectly as possible with increasingly fine cuts.

But finally …

Phew, and OK, and phew again. That’s it, I am hopefully done with the editing of Last Dogs of Winter. Not because I am sick of it, but because after a series of edits, with two preview screenings, and LOTS of helpful notes along the way from audiences, investors, and collaborators, I am satisfied I’ve done everything I can now to make the most of what was shot.

How do you know when to stop?

Tricky. I hesitate to try and explain the mixture of gut instinct and educated experience that drives me because the risk of hubris is always there. My greatest fear is always that my judgement will be wrong!

But here’s the thing. I know when I feel happy. It’s a feeling that’s always pretty clear. Sooner or later, I get to a point where I feel a penny dropping. It’s exactly that kind of sensation – like, “that’s it, I’m done”, and then I’m happy. Boom, done.

I think it’s a truthful film, it captures an authentic impression of an extraordinary place, and contains some sights which are anything but ordinary. Things I will always be grateful I had the opportunity to experience.

Sorry to tease for now, but I hope by next month to be able to make an exciting announcement about the film. Don’t ask me what it is. Can’t tell yet.

August 4th

Here’s the news I’ve been hoping to share for a couple of years.

We have made the ‘Big T’. As in the Toronto Film Festival.

Every movie starts as a bit of a pipe dream, and the trick is to stop dreaming and make it happen. Forget Hollywood and talk of Oscars, for most of us that really is a fantasy; but for any film maker from this far flung corner of the world, it’s important to bring our work to the world, and there are a handful of important festivals that can really count in doing that. One of them is Toronto.

Right at the beginning of planning Last Dogs of Winter it was my fervent hope that if we ever succeeded in getting it made, the best thing that could happen was to be selected for the documentary lineup at Toronto, and now it has. So as you can imagine, there is a fair bit of joy under this roof.

Toronto Film Festival Announces 2011 Midnight Madness, Documentary and Vanguard Selections | RopeofSilicon.com – Movie News and Reviews Done Right.

We’re going to be a little Cinderella picture surrounded by behemoths, but I think we’ve got a great story to tell with a bit of grit, and lots of human and scenic interest. I intend to wave the flag and make this as constructive an opportunity as I can.

August 9th

Work on audio design started today. This should take about ten days, give or take. It’s not a complicated film, but I’m hoping to give it a lot of spatial dimension with surrounding atmospheres and good punchy sound FX to put audiences out into the field and underscore the pictures.

It’s going to be a 5:1 mix, so there will be scope to create some rich textures, particularly with sounds of winds and wind blown snow. Looking forward to hearing what the guys come up with.

Otherwise, it’s nose to the grindstone now for the ‘not so much fun’ stuff. Prepping press kits, and general promo material. And fretting and worrying about the sorts of unpredictable technical problems that make HD production and post production such a delightfully taxing enterprise!

August 21st

OMG time whips by fast! Since last entry in this blog:

1. the movie has been colour graded (that means each shot has been individually adjusted to optimise colour, contrast, and exposure, to make it blend nicely with accompanying images, and to ‘pop’ off the screen as clearly as possible).

2. An audio editors is hard at work slogging through every inch of the film, laying in atmosphere tracks, removing ‘junk’, and cleaning up dialogue tracks; plus also laying in either library effects or specially recorded ‘foley’ effects to punch up individual shots or sequences. This is all heading towards a final sound mix at the end of the month.

3. a composer is meanwhile writing and recording a original music soundtrack. Use of music in this film will be quite extensive. Though a lot of sequences are simple and observational, there is always scope to underscore for emotion or mood. Action in the film takes place in an environment that’s starkly beautiful, but also pregnant with menace, and music can do a great job in suggesting things that can’t always be seen.

So all of this activity is heading towards a few days when everything – pictures and sound and music, all come together. And hopefully, all the bits will fit, and then finally the movie will be ready to play out to an HD Cam master, and that will be that.

Or almost. As Winston Churchill once said, this is not the beginning, and it is not the end; but it is the end of the beginning. or something like that. ha ha.

Nobody tells you at film school that making movies is actually the easy part (though there is nothing easy about it, believe me. If it’s easy, you’re doing something wrong); the hard part – more true now than ever – is getting them out to an audience.

August 26

Now things are really getting interesting. Tom McLeod is most of the way through writing and recording the score. But oh gosh, the deadline is getting very close. the soundtrack is sounding amazing though. Tom’s used a very thorough temp score as a basic guide, but as usual he has unerringly found the emotional tone buried deep in the movie and given it a voice. Now we can throw away other peoples music. I feel the film has a heartbeat of its own, and has moved even closer to what I always imagined it could be.

Here’s a rough mix of the end credits cue as a foretaste:

The last Dogs of Winter End Music rough

Meanwhile, Spooky Pictures have worked dextrous digital magic on all the pictures, subtly lifting and transforming all the imagery in wonderful ways.

And Underground Sound are weaving and mixing a rich assortment of sounds to surround viewers with as strong a sensation of ‘being there’ as we can create; plus – let it be said – doing a sterling job of cleaning up all my bad location sound. Apologies guys – I would have taken a sound recordist, but there was no money, and not enough room in the car anyway.

Crossing fingers all these separate efforts come together early next week, and there will be no last minute technical snafus. I was delighted to hear from the Post Production house we’re using for mastering that they’re almost out of HD Cam tape stock! This, thanks to the disastrous Japanese earthquake which knocked out Sony’s tape factories. Luckily, they have kindly reserved me two tapes, so I will be spared the prospect of narrating my movie in Toronto to the accompaniment of hand shadow figures on a wall.

September 2nd

Well, it’s amazing what you can do when you avoid sleeping. Thanks to a combo of good management, creativity, and insane work ethic composer Tom Mcleod wins man of the match award for Last Dogs of Winter, tendering a score that is no less exceptional for being completed in record time.

All this was forced by the best of all possible problems – our selection for Toronto Film festival. Otherwise, I’d have stretched out for a far more leisurely post production route. But when the Big T asks for your movie, you don’t turn it down.

So what have we got now? A graded picture, courtesy of my old mate Jason Stutter and Spooky Pictures. A talented colourist can do wonders with pictures – correcting or harmonising tints, fixing exposure problems, and enhancing images with selective adjustments. Thanks to Jace ‘the ace’ we have a pretty nice looking movie now.

Then there’s audio. All thanks to Darren Maynard for some fine detailed sound design work. Now when we get amongst the dogs we can hear them all around. Phil Burton meanwhile did a thorough job cleaning up all my location audio, particularly dialogue, so it’s all legible. After the grind of dealing with cleaning up noises, Phil’s done an artful and dynamic 5 channel mix that’s a pleasure to listen to.

We found some tape in the end, and – despite a couple of inevitable hairy last minute bouts of digital WTF? – the movie was finally committed to HD Cam yesterday. More to do down the track, but we have our festival exhibition screeners. The movie is now essentially done.

Oh well, that’s that phase over with. Now the really hard work starts. Sales and marketing. Is there a worse time to be going out into the world with an indy doc? The current situation has been described as a perfect storm of adverse conditions. I hope it remains true that there will always be a place for truth and beauty. I’ve done my best to get something of both into this film.

Press stories from TIFF

Well, first responses at Toronto International Film Festival very encouraging. Good crowds, and happy viewers, switched on and engaged. Could not have asked for more than this review from Variety:

Variety Reviews – The Last Dogs of Winter – Toronto Film Fest Reviews – – Review by Alissa Simon.

15th October

Good news today. Last Dogs of Winter is an official selection at the world’s biggest documentary festival and market. IDFA in Amsterdam will be screening the film as part of its ‘Best of Fests’ programme.

IDFA | Official Selection IDFA 2011 | International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam.

December 08, 2011

Caleb Ross and I spent a happy week in Amsterdam as guests of IDFA, where our film screened four times. We presented two screenings, and participated in lengthy Q & A sessions afterwards. The level of enthusiasm and interest from audiences was very encouraging. Many people seemed drawn in by the promise of an exotic setting and wild polar bears, but they then connected emotionally with the plight of these rare dogs, and the people who are struggling daily against weather and lack of funding to keep them going.

The situation in Churchill seems to have deteriorated since I filmed there over a year ago.   It’s sad that prejudice and poor decision making is driving possibly deleterious outcomes, when all the parties involved could benefit from constructive dialogue. I hope some wisdom and humanity prevails.

Too many bears have been killed or badly unsettled by the people who are supposed to be protecting them. Brian and his dogs are hanging on by a thread, when they ought to be celebrated. I just hope some wisdom prevails amongst the people of this wonderful community, and they take stock of what they have, and what must not be lost.

July 6, 2012

Time really has flown. In summary, since last update, Last Dogs of Winter has been playing the world festival circuit, with appearances at Glasgow, Washington, St Paul, and Sydney amongst others. I attended screenings in Sydney and was very encouraged by the warm response.

This is in stark contrast to the extremely disappointing sales outlook. It seems one can make a good film and still fall between the very large cracks that exist in the world of film marketing. Not that one would sanely expect much of a market for feature documentaries, but the dismal reaction has left me wondering when, if ever, this kind of film making can again be viable. Yes, I know about crowd funding, etc etc; but funding movies is not the problem. I can make films for nothing if need be. The bigger challenge is getting them seen. And no, the internet is NOT the answer. While I can make films very cheaply, I’ll be damned if I’m going to just give them away, especially on such a shallow, ephemeral platform.

Call me a dinosaur (hear me roar), but I reckon the best lace to see a movie is in a theatre with a bunch of other people. Distant second would be at home, on a really nice system with good sound. If you must watch your movies on an iPhone, then whatever, it’s your call. But I’m going to be very careful about providing my movie in this way. Far as I can see, most online distributors are either charlatans, liars, or outright crooks.

Lessons learned:

1. Try and get an advance on sales. If they don’t pay one, then there is no incentive to do anything other than let a title sit. They have nothing to lose, and most of them are too cheap to think about the upside of spending money on publicity and promotion.

2. do not license all rights for all territories to any single company. Try and spread your risk (and opportunities) between different territories.

3. put a reasonable time limit on the license. If they can’t sell your movie inside 6 months to a year, then chances are, they never will. In which case, you need to be able to invoke a reversal of rights clause and take back your film.

People ask me, how come they can’t see my movie about Canadian Eskimo Dogs in Canada? That’s a really good question, and the answer is this: because, officially speaking, this movie has no Canadian Content – or CanCon.

Con is the operative word, I think.

Last Dogs of Winter was made independently with NZ money. That means it is not eligible for the generous screening subsidies that keep Canadian cinema distributors afloat year after year. So, despite the actual Canadian content of the film, to them it’s just another expensive foreign film.

To be fair, there is nothing cheap about releasing movies in cinemas, even though now the growing proliferation of digitally equipped cinemas is making the physical costs much, much less than they were.

The Last Dogs of Winter

And a few more items about the movie and its makers.

Radio NZ Nine To Noon Interview with Costa Botes and Caleb Ross Friday 14th October, 2011

http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/remote-player?id=2500213

Radio NZ Film Reviews, July 2012

film review by sarah_mcmullan

Film review by Graeme Tucket

2011 Toronto International Film Festival.

Seeing a man about a dog – Movies – NZ Herald News.

Review of The Last Dogs of Winter (2011) « Pretty Clever Films.

General Links:

The Last Dogs of Winter (16)

Canadian Eskimo Dog Foundation | Canadian Eskimo Dog Foundation – Churchill MB Canada.                                                                                                                                                  

<p><a href=’http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Eskimo_Dog’>Canadian Eskimo Dog – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia</a>.</p>   

Wapusk Adventures – Dog Sled Tours in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada.

Macri Photo & Design.

Welcome to www.realdog.co.nz

Facts About the Canadian Eskimo Dog – Associated Content from Yahoo! – associatedcontent.com.

The brightest spark of hope for the future of these dogs lies with the people who first domesticated and bred them – the Inuit. Over the past three decades, slow but steady progress has been made by individuals and groups living in the Far North to reclaim dogs and use them for both traditional and tourist related ventures. Here’s a link to ISDI, a group passionately concerned with their own vision for the future of CED/Inuit Dogs.

Inuit Sled Dog International

Photos from Amsterdam IDFA trip:

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151001587435363.773664.840640362&type=1&l=5a5b5d250c

FAQ

Q. What is Brian doing with his dogs? Or what does he plan to do with them?

A. He is maintaining a colony for the purposes of preserving blood lines or genetic stock. It’s fair to mention that Brian has been criticised for his record keeping, and oversight of breeding. It’s also highly moot that Greenland dogs are so similar genetically, that there is no immediate danger of these animals disappearing.

Q. Why does Brian keep his dogs outdoors without houses?

A. Exposure to nature and the elements stimulates the dogs, and keeps them hardy. Adult dogs will not use shelters. Brian tried it in early years, and found that his dogs preferred curling up in snow. Shelters are provided for nursing females, pups, and sick or injured dogs.

Q. Why are the dogs on chains?

A. Because otherwise they would fight, or run away. Many thousands of dogs were culled in Canada because they were deemed to be a nuisance and hazard. There is a lot of backwards mythologising going on, so it’s difficult to separate fact from fancy, but traditionally, sled dogs were always kept restrained. of course this goes against our modern tendency to want to see dogs running around happy and free. But think about it. What modern city anywhere in the world allows dogs to run around loose? I can think of a few places, and I know the result. It ain’t pretty. Dogs are pack animals. They naturally band together to hunt and breed, and breeding involves fighting for dominance. That isn’t pretty either.

Q. Why doesn’t Brian work his dogs?

It’s time consuming, and thus expensive to train and maintain teams of working dogs. 12-15 dogs can be a full time year round proposition for a musher. Brian’s dilemma is that he loves sledding, and would dearly like to be working all his dogs, but he struggles year round just to keep them fed.

Q. What do the dogs eat?

A. They are fed frozen chunks of ground up poultry meat, every second or third day, depending on time of year. When the bears are around, mainly October-November, Brian and anyone helping him have to feed a few dogs at a time, keeping guard to stop bears stealing food.

Q. Are Brian’s dogs healthy?

Yes. They are extremely healthy. They are inspected twice a year by the  state Vet, who has taken action against locals for abusing their dogs.

Q. Do the bears attack or eat the dogs?

A. Attacks are extremely rare. For the most part the dogs and bears ignore each other. The resident bears become habituated to leaving the dogs alone, and normally would not attempt to predate them anyway. The dogs are fierce and can inflict nasty wounds defending themselves.  There have been instances when bears have killed dogs, but the documented cases involve either accidents where passing bears got tangled in chains, zealous females protecting their cubs (female bears very rarely venture through this area as it is dominated by male bears), or (by far the worst incident) a sick, elderly bear that gained access to Mile 5 after rangers acting against advice removed several of the dominant bears, upsetting the natural ‘policing’ of the area.

Last year, and this year, Conservation have again darted and removed bears from Mile 5, to no discernable purpose, while inexplicably ignoring other bears much closer to Churchill.

Conservation may have reasons for their actions, but they are not clear to locals, and this has created a good deal of ill feeling.

Q. What is the outlook for Inuit Sled Dogs?

A. The outlook for these dogs is realistically quite bleak. They were bred to do specific tasks, and that role has largely disappeared. Perhaps if petrol ever runs out, they will be needed again. Meantime, they continue to be used for cultural or tourism reasons. There has been a resurgence of interest in the dogs amongst Inuit, and that is where the greatest hope lies – with the people that created the dogs in the first place.

This is just scratching the surface really, but I’ll add more questions and answers as I go along. Thanks for reading.

197 Responses to The Last Dogs of Winter

  1. Tracey Stevens says:

    Im looking forward to seeing this. Ive never been to Churchill, but Caleb ( my son ) has loved being up there. Ive heard his stories, Ive seen some of his photos, this however will be the ultimate for me to see these two men in such a harsh environment doing what they both love.

  2. Costa Botes says:

    It surprised me to hear none of Caleb’s family have visited Churchill. I guess it seems a forbidding place, and it isn’t for everyone, but what an incredible corner of the world. Hopefully folks who see the movie will get to share a little of what Caleb discovered.

    • Tracey Stevens says:

      For me its just a case of being able to afford to go up there. I would have given my teeth to have made the trip. I nearly offered to carry your bags

  3. Calen Paris says:

    Really looking forward to seeing this when it’s done, heard about the project awhile ago and am excited to see the results. The scenery I’ve seen in Calebs’ photos have long been a source of interest and sometimes wonder, also his relationship with the dogs is something I’d like to see onscreen. I’ve heard a bit about Brian and he seems like an
    amazing guy, good luck with the post production, I’m sure it’s going to be spectacular!

  4. Joel Anthony McAuley says:

    As a resident of churchill and being born and raised here i understand how expensive it is to visit churchill but its a MUST to come and visit some day. Once you come and spend some time your always a local resident in our hearts so Caleb will always be able to call this town “home” . I have become pretty friends with Caleb since he has lived in churchill and i can’t wait to see the end product of the documentary. I fully respect & support the film. I am sure that its going to be a great.
    best of luck
    Joel

  5. Costa Botes says:

    Thanks Joel, I will certainly do my best. Watch this space.

  6. Alex Moyse says:

    Like Tracey I am really excited to see this as well, I have seen many of Calebs photo’s and the dramatic change in lifestyle for him and how he has done so well with it is fantastic. Well done, can’t wait to check out my big bro and his new home town in this film!
    All the best
    Alex

  7. Karen Gill says:

    What can I say, but WOW! I’ve always had a soft spot for these beautiful dogs, and the beautiful polar bears, and been a great supporter of Caleb and his achievements in the time I’ve known him, mate, this is yet another wonderful thing to have achieved and one of your greatest. I’m proud to call you my friend and really hope to one day go to Churchill and see those wonderful animals for myself, and hope I can sometime soon see the documentary too. I’ve seen many of Caleb’s bear and dog photos and just love his work. I think what Caleb and Ladoon have done is a truly wonderful thing, these animals should be protected for all of us to enjoy for the future, and thanks to people like these two men, we have a good chance of achieving that goal. Great work to the both of you. I hope you continue to do more wonderful work like this.
    All the best,
    Karen :)

  8. Candice Cleroux says:

    This is who Jeremy (my son) works for, I am so grateful he is a part of this, was there the whole making of the document….in the truck is Brain Jeremy’s boss and the handsome dude is Caleb who taught Jeremy everything he knows.. Thank you too both of you and Costa for this being a part of Jeremy’s path in life….From a very grateful Mother Candice ( we came to Churchill Dec242009) Brain and Caleb took Jeremy on when no one here would even look at him… Then Costa come to do the documentary and Jeremy had the pleasure of hearing hours of Brain’s years of story’s…..I am so thankful to all of you… please keep being who you all are and make this a number one…….again from a greatful Mother Candice

  9. Pingback: Caleb Ross : The Last Dogs Of Winter « The Tribe Cast

  10. Fantastic! I am a friend of Caleb’s mother and she directed me here. I am very much looking forward to seeing the finished work. Amazing all around!

  11. Fiorella Rodokal says:

    Excellent material, I love these dogs and have always wanted to venture into that part of the world…must put this on my list of things to do before I die.. :)

  12. Nancy Lehew says:

    Mr. Botes, it seems you have done an excellent job on the Promo! I felt like I was there myself riding in the truck. On the snowy roads and in blizzardy conditions, on a clearer day seeing them fed. It seemed that the beautiful, thick coated dogs were boss to the polar bears,and they were living happily in the cold and snow as they were ment to from the beginnig of their time in early frontier Canada.
    Can’t wait to see the documentary!

    • Costa Botes says:

      Thanks Nancy. I think people need to understand that these dogs are actually happy in the snow and ice. It’s what they were bred and evolved for. There’s certainly some real drama in this unique realm, but not where you might expect. I hope the movie both enlightens and surprises people.

      • Lorina Harding says:

        I agree that both the bears and the dogs have evolved to thrive in the harsh northern climes. I lived in Churchill (actually, Fort Churchill) from 1964-1968 and no other time in my life shaped who I am like that place. I now live in NZ and I completely understand what you mean about feeling the cold more acutely. It has to do with the houses having no insulation, no central heating and a culture of leaving the windows open even in the winter! Ah well.
        I also knew Brian and his brother, Kenny, though we were still children then. Polar bears and sled dogs were a part of life as were the maulings both doled out to the population every year. I still have a fear of bears but watching your clips (from a safe distance and with a cup of tea) allows an insight into these wonderful and, unfortunately, endangered animals.
        You are all to be congratulated and I can’t wait to see the finished product. I would love to get it shown in our local, independent cinema.
        warm scones
        Lorina Harding

      • Costa Botes says:

        Yes, I am now acutely aware of how rubbish our houses are here. We make ourselves sick and miserable with these drafty wooden villas with no insulation. They look good though!

  13. Joanne Stover says:

    Hey, Costa! Nice to have met you while you were here. This is a grand opening to what is going to be a very interesting film. I’m looking forward to the finished product!

  14. Scott Moyse says:

    Very impressive I can’t wait to see the finished piece!

  15. brendon ross says:

    You’re an inspiration bro, we got hot pools down these ways if ya passing. Love ya.

  16. Teresa R says:

    I just saw a brief piece involving these dogs, their owner, and the bears. I found it to be very intriguing so I did a search… And ran across this site. I’ll be looking for the release!

  17. Mal Ross says:

    I’m Caleb’s Dad. I think back to all those early years of having to close my work, pick Caleb up from school and drive down to Auckland for an unexpected 10 minute audition, with Caleb trying to read in the car, the script that had been e-mailed to me. Now he is a major part of a story that needs to be told and I am so proud that he has had the vision, the fortitude and the guts to go for it.

    Unless something unexpected happens, I will be in Churchill soon and see the home-place of the stories and struggles for myself. It will be a humbling experience.

  18. Graham Povey says:

    This is an incredible journey being made here! ….. the devotion to these dogs in such harsh environment is nothing short of heroic!….. Wish I could get there to help in some way….
    If I can help promote through my artwork or fundraising, let me know!

  19. Krissy says:

    Wow, I’m from Manitoba, I had never heard of this breed of dog before & I can’t wait to see this documentary :) You got to love our -40 or more below freezing temperatures I bet that was a big change for Caleb

    • Costa Botes says:

      Well, gosh if you’re from Canada and haven’t heard of Canadian Eskimo Dogs, that’s probably reason enough for a Kiwi to come make a film about them. One of Brian’s dogs was used as the model for a commemorative Canadian coin, and another one featured on a special Canadian stamp issue showing 4 classic Canadian dog breeds. The more one looks into the history of these animals, the more sense Brian Ladoon’s passion to preserve them makes. Caleb loves the cold. yeah, big difference. We get an inch of snow in the far south here and the whole country comes to a stop. Ha ha.

  20. Birgit says:

    Wow,what a great job!
    I´ve never heard about this issue until I´ve found this website. But now I´m really interested. I think this is exactly, what you want to achieve with this film.
    Well, … so,… you already reached me.
    I can´t understand all of the background yet, but I guess, that is what the documentary is actually intended for.
    It is amazing, how they managed being in this cold, barren and dangerous environment.
    Especially for Caleb, it must have been a very exhausting time – but certainly also impressive and rich to experiences.
    Thanks and a big praise to all who were involved in this work – and still are.
    I wish you power and endurance for the postproduction.
    (I think/hope you will keep us up to date. :-) )
    The promo spot is great! (I could watch it again and again…)
    I hope, I will get the opportunity to see the finished film.
    Nice greetings from Germany!

    (Sorry for some mistakes, but it´s pretty hard for me to write in English.)

    • Costa Botes says:

      Thanks very much Birgit! Yes, keep an eye on the page every so often. I’ll update my running blog regularly and post more pictures and video. You can also track us through Facebook, where Caleb has started a “Last Dogs of Winter” page. Don’t forget to “like” it if you do.
      Best wishes,
      Costa

  21. Pingback: The Last Dogs Of Winter : Teaser Trailer « The Tribe Cast

  22. Serena says:

    Hay Costa

    Was up with Brian and Penny for 3 weeks. I LOVED IT, never got to met Caleb he left just before I got there. I have been talking with Brian for the better part of 15 years. I have always been a proud support of Brian and the Canadian Eskimo Dog. Ever since the first C.E.D. I purchased in the 1990’s. I would own no other breed. They are highly intelligent, loyal and extremely affectionate. It’s really to bad that most people no nothing about this majestic dog and all the things that they have accomplished over the years. It seems to me that most Canadians are ignorant in regards with the things in our own country. Let alone the plight of the Canadian Eskimo Dog. If it has nothing to do with them then they do not wish to concern them selves with it. Our government is a prime example of that. They help people that they shouldn’t have and left the ones trying to save this breed blowing in the wind. As for your comment to Krissy there was 5 indigenous breeds native to Canada. The Tahltan Bear Dog became extincted in the early 1970’s. Don’t take this the wrong way, I’m the one writing the pamphlet for Brian. In hopes to educate the idiots of Canada, as well as shed a light on the wonderful thing that Brian is trying to accomplish. I would like to take the time to thank you for all you efforts in this matter. For with out dedicated people like us, this magnificence wonder of Mother Nature would end up having the same fate as the Tahltan Bear dog. I would also like to wish you good luck on the completion of this film. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of this when it is finished. Please keep me in mind when it comes out on DVD or Blue-ray I would be more then happy to purchase a few copies. Keep up the good work Costa I know I will.

    Thank you for you time.
    Serena

    • Costa Botes says:

      Thanks Serena. I would not be so hard on your countrymen. I think all people tend to struggle with what’s in front of them, and out of sight is out of mind. Most people would have the view that a dog is a dog, there’s plenty of dogs in the world, so what’s the big deal? What caught my interest here was the history of these dogs, and the amazing bond they shared with humans for thousands of years. A bond which got betrayed in the worst way. When they were no longer useful, they got thrown aside. Brian has been one of the few people who picked up the challenge of keep CEDs going as a viable breed. I hope this film helps make the plights of the dogs more visible; and advances the argument that CEDs are worth preserving – for their own sake, regardless of economic significance.

  23. heather says:

    you forgot to mention how the dog are on a chain gain from birth to the day they die which means they are never walked or let off the chain except for a male or two once a year to make off spring how beautiful is that really, I’d ike to know how many of you would like to be chained up or imprisioned your whole life YES so beautiful.

    • Costa Botes says:

      Good point, thanks Heather. The dogs are on chains, yes, and that is indeed a difficult thing to swallow for anyone who loves dogs as domestic pets. I personally find it troubling that dogs whose original raisen d’etre was to pull sleighs and hunt have to be restrained, with too little opportunity to work. That is part of the bittersweet drama in this situation. Without considerably more support, the CEDF can’t exercise or work the number of dogs they have. But if they cut down numbers too much, the aim of preserving genetic stock is put at risk. Even if a giant fence was erected out where they are, the dogs cannot just run free. They are pack animals and would kill each other at worst, and certainly become a roving menace at best. A fence would also disturb natural movements of bears. It’s a big dilemma. Ask any professional musher how much it costs to maintain a trained team of huskies. The annual outlay is enormous. The bottom line for Ladoon’s operation is to maintain CED genetic stock. Other people are entitled to conclude that maybe it isn’t worth it. Let the dogs go, if they can’t be companion animals like other domestic dogs. The purpose of this film is not to advocate for one side or another. There’s a pretty unique experiment going on here, with very strong feelings pro and con. My intention is to try and get beyond knee jerk emotive statements, and examine the facts. As to conclusions, that’ll always be a space for opinion. Hopefully this film will contribute to more informed opinions.

      • heather says:

        I’m from Churchill I’ve lived here since i was 1years old this is my homw town and i know for a fact that those dogs have never been ran for no dog sled team they only sit on the chain i was not kidding when i said chain gang for life. Not to be a jerk but the bittersweet drama is that Brian does let people think he does things with those dogs when in fact he does not.

      • Costa Botes says:

        I can only speak for what I know. Brian made no such claims to me. In fact he expressed his regret that he’s unable to run the dogs. This issue is important and will be covered in the film. If you visit the CEDF web site you’ll note that Brian is now making an effort to recruit volunteers to work and run his dogs. Whether that effort will be successful or not, we shall see. What one can say with some certainty is that if Brian stopped his activities tomorrow, the genetic stock of CEDs would take an unsustainable hit. So, I suggest if you are so concerned you could do something constructive about it such as volunteering to walk a couple of dogs. I found them by and large to be happy, well socialised creatures that adored human company, on or off their chains.

      • ter weeme says:

        Polar bears and dogs playing.
        I really think you want to make money out of this poor dogs.
        I have seen a video where you can see that the dog is not feeling secure being arount the bears and one of the bears want to mount one of the dogs. THe dogs have no change of escape.
        Is so ‘ funny’ that Mr Ladoon himself looks out for his own security but about the dogs I do not hear anything about it.

        I got a very bad taste on my mouth after watching this

      • Costa Botes says:

        I’m sorry you feel entitled to judge a situation you do not understand. The bears ‘playing’ with Brian Ladoon’s dogs is a fairly uncommon phenomenon. By and large, the bears and dogs ignore each other. It’s a tenuous coexistence mediated by Brian, who has chosen to put his dog breeding operation where it is for some quite sensible reasons. It is an artificial situation, and there are strong opinions about the relative welfare of dogs, bears, and people, from all sides. My film describes that situation fairly evenly I believe. Despite much hysterical propaganda to the contrary, the factual record does not support any serious contention that Brian’s dogs are predated or hurt by bears. The one major exception was an incident over a decade ago involving a sick and rogue bear that gained access to the area only because state wildlife authorities chose to remove a number of resident adult bears, against Brian’s advice, and thus completely upset the self regulating heirarchy which had kept interlopers out. I understand they have returned to this practice. The impulse behind the policy makes sense, but it seems self defeating to upset and disturb bears which are minding their own business in a well defined migration resting area, in the name of ‘protecting them from human habituation’, while allowing bears to be harrassed by large tourism ventures everywhere else along the Churchill coast. The welfare of the dogs is best served leaving them exactly where they are. It’s a coastal area, distant from town, where nobody can bother them, and they bother nobody. There is plentiful fresh water, and sea breezes which provide relief from the area’s terrible bugs in summer.

  24. heather says:

    if those dogs where my responsibility i would walk them maybe he should have thought about that before taking such a big task on, as for myself i have 1 dog that does not get tied up and she is walk and runned and played with and the reason i only hav one and not 200 is thats how many i know i can give my love to and care for well the rest goes to my children, maybe peta could walk brians dogs. this also goes to all that has a dog and ties them up as well. Unfortuneatly what brian says and what he does are two different things.The dogs are so interbread they probably would not even know how to run a team anymore.

    • Costa Botes says:

      Thanks for your thoughts Heather, I’m glad your dog is happy. I don’t tie my dog up either. But neither is she allowed to run free. Yard, and walks on a leash.

      I’m not an expert on northern dogs. There are people in Churchill (other than Brian) who are; and they had nothing critical to say about the condition of Brian’s dogs. Rather the opposite actually. The Provincial vet inspected both of Brian’s sites while I was filming, and issued a positive verdict.

      Best,

      Costa Botes

  25. Rod spence says:

    At every turn brians been challenged by the town of churchill,because of these ‘magestic’ animals.I’ve spent a better part of my life helping these animals,with brian.I’ve helped take them on runs,I’ve collected my share of scars from this time in my life.Do you think when this all began he thought it would be this rough?I doubt it,but he ‘s determined to keep this animal alive…I’m sorry it’s been so hard brian keep up the good work.Maybe after this movie is done,opinions will change…here’s hoping.

  26. Rose Close says:

    hello Costa…I am enjoying your blog creating this movie :) Nigel has been trying to contact Penny(no luck yet) with the view to maybe going to run a team for them. Not sure what shape or form that might happen as we have our own dogs to consider………(mind you it would be hell having to spend my days running both teams while he was away :)
    Brian is between a rock & a hard place as these dogs, I am guessing not unlike our malamutes are not the easiest to run, that is exactly why Malamutes are becoming less common working as there are many more easier & faster breeds & x/breeds
    I believe he has done an amazing thing for the breed & your interpretation of his work can be only be good for this historical breed.
    I can’t comment more than that as I haven’t been there.
    Their link to New Zealand & Antarctica is probably greatest outside Canada.
    Awareness is a great education tool !!
    Look forward to seeing/readding more.
    Take care Rose

    • Costa Botes says:

      There is indeed a big difference between Canadian Eskimo Dogs and today’s typical racing sled dogs. This is something I intend to discuss and show in the movie. The dogs used for racing look almost like Greyhounds in comparison to Brian’s hounds. It’s like comparing a Ferrari with a Humvee. CEDs have also commonly been referred to as the ‘tractors’ of the north. They’re built for strength and endurance, not speed. So they’re really expedition dogs. I believe they’re no more difficult to train than other dogs. Brian experimented with all kinds of breeds early on in his sledding life, including Malamutes, but was led inexorably to the “real thing”. The bond he formed with his first CEDS in 1976 has persisted to this day.

      • Rose Close says:

        Yes I agree, the heavy freighting breeds are different, very different than todays racing dogs.
        The more I read of Brian the more I would like to meet him :)

  27. dennis compayre says:

    “every dog has his day”…after all these years, with the help of this documentary, this day may come for Brian. Say what you may about this man but do not question his absolute dedication and sacrifice to save this noble breed of dogs from extinction.

    • Lorina Harding says:

      Well said, Dennis…and that Dog’s day is surely about to come. I don’t see those who criticise Brian doing anything BUT criticise so let them lie like sleeping dogs…whoooa too many canine cliches for me! Keep up the good work, Brian; can’t wait to see and share this brave doco.

  28. vikki griffiths says:

    Hi Costa,
    I am a Canadian living in the uk and by chance I came across the facebook site for the doc you have produced.. The Last Dogs of Winter. I am finding it very interesting indeed. I have lived the cold climates of Canada (everyone should experience it once in a lifetime!) and have always been around and had experiences of northern breed dogs such as the malamute, siberian husky, and yes the Canadian Eskimo (inuit) dog as well as wolves. Growing up in Canada I remember the debates about the CED and yes did hear the good and bad about Brian and his dogs…..how they were kept, killing of the dogs etc…..
    So I am very interested to see the final cut of your documentary….having seen the trailers it appears very interesting and I will hope you will show the good, bad and the ugly of the current situation and that of the CED. I do support Brian and what he is trying to achieve but like others I wish he could give these dogs a better quality of life……not chained and away from the polar bears. I realize he is in a difficult situation and would hope that the proceeds of this doc could some how benefit the CED in his care to allow for better living conditons……The CED is truely a majestic dog but personally I hope this does not become their downfall. There are some CED dogs here and my concern is that they will become fashionable like the sib husky has become here. 20yrs ago there were few sib husky to be seen and now there are hundreds, but due to their extreme nature of a strong prey drive they are becoming one of the most rehomed dog, you see we have too many small farm animals, sheep, etc….and the cute fluffy pup grows up and shows is true nature…a perfect runner and hunter……. and people cannot cope…hence dump the dogs. Lets face it they have become a good fast money making breed…..I have husky and try to discourage others from getting one…..My greatest concern is the CED will become popular and more people outside of Canada will want them….and in the end the breed will become ruined as it has become here ( people now breeding german sheppards with sibs and malmaute in a hope to get a wolf looking dog!!) I have been to dog shows here seeing the CED being used for show and the way people react with the dog when they do not acheive what they want…if only Brian saw this…..he would think very carefully about exporting them and allowing other Canadians to do so…….I do not want to see this happen to the CED.
    So the only thing I ask…. is that you do not show the CED in such a light that those that see this doc will want to rush out to try and get hold of a CED as happened with the sib husky after the movie like Snow Dogs was released……PLEASE show the true nature of the CED, a loving friend but a perfect powerful hunter and killer.
    I would love to see the finished product of all your hard work…….and if I was back in Canada there would be nothing I would love more than to help Brian and his dogs…..is there some way I could contact Brian?
    I look forward to seeing your finished product…
    best wishes for the future,

    Vikki

    • Costa Botes says:

      Dear Vikki,

      I’m happy to put your mind at rest about the content and tone of this documentary. Brian’s intentions have nothing to do with exporting or exploiting a new canine craze. He is genuinely motivated by his love of CEDs as exactly what they are – indigenous dogs of the arctic. He is actually extremely selective about who he gives or sells his dogs to. If he were less so, perhaps the financial viability of his operation might not be so tenuous. But he would totally agree with you that sending CEDs out willy nilly would be counter productive to the breed and unsafe for all but the most capable and knowledgeable owners.

      The film shows the true nature of these animals without any glazing of romantic myth – they are primitive dogs with a fierce pack mentality, half wild, but also, paradoxially, animals that adore human company and exhibit extraordinary loyalty and tenacity. Admirable beasts. But they are definitely not an easy house pet!

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  29. Hello,
    I got some CED since 1993 and I take 2 CED by Brian 2 years ago.
    I am admirative about his battle for this breed and need that more people help him. I am agree with Vikki, if there become to much popular every one wanted one and this is not a house pet and for me not a show dog too.
    You are the first speaking about Brian work and doing a documentary and that’s very good. Thank you (sorry for my english)
    Regards from Switzerland

  30. Jay. says:

    Hi, Costa.
    I’m from Australia and before coming across the information for your documentary, I knew nothing of these dogs, so please excuse my ignorance!

    I guess my main question is regarding Heather’s comments about the dogs being chained all the time. You have explained why they couldn’t be allowed to simply run free in an enclosure, I understand that.
    However, couldn’t a smaller enclosure of some kind be built, and one dog at a time be allowed to run around and exercise within? Maybe something like this is already done, I don’t know, but from what Heather said, they very rarely get off their chains…

    What would be the problem with giving each dog a few hours run-around in an enclosure/pen of some sort? I’m not talking some huge thing, as you’ve mentioned how the bears could be disrupted also, but if a smaller piece of land could be fenced off, and one dog at a time allowed to explore it so they have some time off their chain…
    (I know Brian has quite a number of dogs, so even then it wouldn’t be often at all that each one had “their turn”, it’s just a thought of mine I wanted to ask about…)

    Again, maybe this is already done, I wouldn’t know. And if it isn’t, I’m sure there’s reasons behind it, as I do believe Brian cares about every one of the creatures. I’m just curious…

    Thank you in advance for your response. :)

    • Costa Botes says:

      Hi Jay,
      Good thought, but I don’t think it’s practical given the conditions, and also, would not significantly alter the exercise area of individual dogs. They have a 5 m chain each, so can move freely within a 10m diameter circle. A number of dogs are allowed to roam free, and these act as sentinels for the rest. They won’t run off as their pack allegience keeps them with the group. I don;t believe the chains in themselves are a problem. We should not apply human ideals of freedom to dogs. If you think a little deeper than the romantic notion of wild dogs running free, you quickly understand how raw and unforgiving and ‘limited’ a life in nature can be. The most salient point is that the dogs are above all pack animals, and the greatest cruelty would be to treat them as house pets. As you’ll eventually see in the movie, Brian’s dogs are healthy, socialised to each other and humans, and give every indication of being perfectly happy. They have each other an the constant stimulation of the natural world around them. ON the other hand, I agree, seeing an animal chained outdoors in conditions that can only be described as ridiculously extreme … well … it brings tears to my eyes every time; but I have come to understand that there’s a difference between sentiment and reality. We owe these dogs a place in the world. For 5000 years they made life possible for humans in the far north. They enabled mankind to spread into the americas (admittedly a dubious benefit to every other living thing!). There’s only a few hundred left now. Brian is the last breeder maintaining significant numbers. As he says, he’s keeping them like, “diamonds in a vault”. It would be very nice, however, if more people volunteered to work with and exercise the dogs,

  31. Tracey Stevens says:

    Lol, your last clip, well thats gold.

    • Costa Botes says:

      Little chip off a big block.

      We’ve got a lot of material, so I’ll put up more clips as and when I can, but they won’t be straight out of the movie like this one. Gotta keep some of the ‘sense of discovery’, though I realise (worse luck) that these days people like to experience things before making up their minds if they want to experience them.

  32. Claire says:

    Hey from England,

    Just wanted to say, we thoroughly enjoyed your clips and comments and CANNOT WAIT to see the end product, we were alerted to your work through a forum i am part of, as a member of Sibespace, i enjoy learning all things about sled dogs and although i must admit, i know very little about CED, i think the fact that you are trying to raise awareness and help the breed to continue is very commendable. Also i agree, we humans owe them.. big time…
    I wish you all the best in your work and life and i will continue to watch and to show my support, i just wish i could do more!
    take care
    Claire xxx

    • Costa Botes says:

      Thanks Claire, I hope you enjoy the movie when it eventually escapes. We held a preview of the first cut the other night, and responses were very encouraging. It’s hard to find topics that are loaded with wonder and surprises – and spectacle too. I got lucky with this one, for sure. You’ll have to be patient a while yet. The release plan won’t firm up until we get some distributors aboard, and to do that I have to make sure the film’s as good as it can possibly be. There are many miles left to travel yet. I’ll be editing right through this month, trying different things out.
      Cheers,
      Costa

  33. Jo says:

    What is CED? Thanks.

  34. Hi all you can also find out more information about Canadian Eskimo Dogs here http://www.canadianeskimodogfoundation.ca and here http://www.canadianeskimodogclub.com

    Racheal Bailey: Canadian Eskimo Dog Club Of Great Britain

  35. John Callen says:

    Hi folks,
    Like you Costa, I directed some of The Tribe. I concur, nothing more need be said about that. But Caleb always struck me as a young man destined to lead a wonderful and “different” life. It is exciting to see he has found such a focus and I am looking forward to seeing your work with him. Please pass on my fond memories of him as a youngster and my best wishes. Cheers, John Callen

  36. The plight of endangered species has always been one that I have followed. While before learning of this film I didn’t know about these beautiful animals being in such dire straights, I will be looking forward to seeing it and sharing it as well. My heart goes out to these animals and I applaud all the effort that is being put into the production of the film. I hope that the film does raise more awareness and I know that I will do what I can will sharing the need in my community and raising the awareness around here as well. Bright Blessings from Maine, U.S.

    • Costa Botes says:

      My own epiphany was realising that dogs aren’t just ‘dogs’. There are dogs, and there are dogs, and we’ve got some responsibility for all of them. Thanks for the good wishes.

  37. Mary Anne Bourke says:

    Bravo Costa! – awesome footage and mesmerizing flow – I found my astonishment constantly renewed by the flow of distinctive detail of Caleb and Brian’s mission in this harsh environment. I think you’ve got the balance right between the dogs and bears right (I saw preview #2) as the bears do pose a big part of the guys’ challenge to sustain the dogs. So, the bears, some hostile locals, certain tourists – but also something as huge, intangible and implacable as ‘the way of all flesh’ – are like the villains in this cold-ass buddy movie about a young dude and an aging wild-man as they toil to save a pack of endangered furry ‘damsels’ from extinction – yeah, it works :) Am intrigued with the MM movie, too. Great site! All the best, mab

    • Costa Botes says:

      Well the bears aren’t villains, so much as they’re there, they’re big and they’ve got teeth, and they’ve got prior land rights too! But doesn’t mean the two species can’t hang out together in a mutually beneficial symbiosis. I’m totally rooting for the bears as much as the dogs. There’s plenty of room for all in those icy lands.

  38. Robin Shingleton 021 878 559 says:

    Hi Costa,

    Robin Shingleton here – doco director based for now in Christchurch. Been great looking at your blogs and the journey thus far. As you well know the world of doc making is often a lonely one -[ I’m guessing Lone Pine is a metaphor for everything doc making requires] – and I admire your candour, get up and go and willingness to step out and tackle difficult lives and worlds and push through all the obstacles. Find your work inspiring and its pushing me to find that balance between network driven and funded docs and independant filmmaking and feeding the family!!…delicate balance I know but I’m long overdue for the world of independant docs. Again, inspiring stuff – love to catch up when I’m in Welly next….i..e.if you’ve not off in some other far off land illuminating the lives of the forgotten and misunderstood. Take care. R

  39. Robin Shingleton 021 878 559 says:

    PS….love the world of the dogs!

  40. Isaac Cortez says:

    When will this be available for purchase? Looking forward to seeing it.

    • Costa Botes says:

      That will be 2012 some time and will depend on territory and distributors. My hope would be to get it into theatres in some places wherever possible. That means holding off on TV and DVD meantime. I will be making an announcement next week about the film’s international premiere. Watch this site and our Facebook page.

  41. Paul Schurke says:

    We enjoy sledding with our 60 Canadian Inuit Dogs every day of the winter here at WIntergreen Dogsled Lodge in Ely, Minnesota. We’ve especially enjoyed our dogsled trips each spring up along Hudson Bay to Churchill where we’ve met up with Brian & Caleb the past several seasons and have followed the making of Last Dogs of WInter. We anxious to see the film and, once it’s ready for distribution, we’ll be happy to help get the word out through our website http://www.dogsledding.com. Best wishes, Paul Schurke & the Wintergreen crew

    • Costa Botes says:

      Thanks for your note Paul. Please watch this space. We’ll be making an announcement about the film’s premiere in about 48 hours.

      Very happy to hear you’re running so many dogs. That’s what they were born to do. With some positive action on the way, my hope is that a lot more of
      Brian’s dogs are going to be working and enjoying a more active life in the near future.

      As to what to call these dogs … it’s maddening. CEDs, Canadian Eskimo Dogs, Qimmiq … all are applicable, but some people seem to get themselves unreasonably worked up about it. My understanding is that the formal accepted name for the breed is Canadian Eskimo Dog. OK. So … is the term “Eskimo” still considered not politically correct in this context??? Happy to take advice from anyone on this topic.

      • igordragoslavic says:

        Dear Costa,

        I commend you on the interest in these dogs. I too have a passion for them; to such an extent that they’ve become the most important preoccupation in my life.

        I am looking forward to seeing your film, even though i suspect it will frustrate me. I know I shouldn’t judge before seeing it, but from the available information I am afraid that (although clearly being very well intentioned) you have walked in to the lure of the fabricated myths and allowed yourself to become one more vehicle in the further perpetuation of distorted caricatures. Quite a pity, especially in this case where the facts and reality are much more awe-inspiring than anything a human mind could ever conceive. If this was rally a story about humans, and not dogs like you claim, the title should have been: “The Last Men of Winter”. I really hope you will forgive my harshness, and will be open to untangling false perceptions and help reveal the unjust ways of wrestling away these dogs away from the people who are to be thanked for their existence and who are the only hope for their future.

        You are correct, I do get (maddeningly for me to) worked up about the name. However, consider the following if you find the naming preference unreasonable.

        Qimmiq simply means “dog” in Inuktitut (Inuit) language. A perfectly fine name to use for Inuit Dogs, although it is a bit misleading cause a Chihuahua is a qimmiq too.

        The “Canadian Eskimo Dog” is a made up “breed” by kennel clubs and the attitudes stuck in the Victorian era views of dogs, dog breeds and pedigreed “purity”. In the 1970’s Bill Carpenter “rescued” a couple of hundred dogs “form” the Canadian Inuit (derogatory “Eskimo”), under his well founded fears that the changing lifestyles will lead to the complete disappearance of this magnificent dog. At that time the prevailing belief was that the way to “preserve” the “breed” is to have it registered/pedigreed and bred by “expert” breeders.

        The “Canadian Eskimo Dogs” are nothing more than the pedigreed descendants of those dogs that Bill Carpenter gathered from the Inuit in the 1970’s. In the meantime the Inuit kept some of their “original” dogs, and over the years many Inuit got back to their traditional values that include traveling and hunting with dogs. In fact, keeping dog teams has seen a complete revival and it is flourishing in the contemporary Eastern Canadian Arctic. Despite the problem of “pollution” by non-Inuit dog genes brought by Europeans, the “pure” dogs seem to be making a comeback, simply by being the only ones well enough equipped to withstand the harsh selection of that specific environment and work conditions.

        In addition to the Eastern Canadian “stock” there is the whole Greenland with the hundreds of thousands of “Greenland Dogs”, biologically exactly the same dog as his Canadian counterpart, separated only by artificial political games. In fact there is less genetic difference between the dogs in Canadian Eastern Arctic and Western Greenland, than between the dogs of Western and Eastern Greenland.

        http://homepage.mac.com/puggiq/V7N4/V7,N4SameDog.html

        http://homepage.mac.com/puggiq/V7N1/V7,N1Research.html

        http://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=genetic%20difference%20in%20canadina%20inuit%20dog%20and%20greenland%20dog&source=web&cd=7&sqi=2&ved=0CE4QFjAG&url=http%3A%2F%2Fnetforum.dsr.life.ku.dk%2Fperl%2Fuinfofil%2Ftype-dsr%2F25926%2F20090914145802-15906-hannefriisandersen2005.pdf&ei=JWmxTr6RMqLh0QHhu-HeAQ&usg=AFQjCNGPlMGpxTHBf1gSweavZVx0yaRvDg&sig2=19V0t16qrzc2guIqEbr5bA

        http://web.me.com/smellydog1/Blogs/Jeffrey_Dinsdale/Entries/2011/7/24_Qitdlarssuaq_and_the_Canadian_Eskimo_Dog.html

        I hope we can establish then that the Canadian Inuit Dog and the Greenland dog are the same (thus the term Inuit Sled Dog). So then if we talk about preserving purity, Greenland is a perfect example of achieving that in a much better way than any “breeding program” could ever do. In the so called “Dog District” (Northern Greenland) it is absolutely illegal to bring any foreign dogs. The “import ban” is so strictly enforced that they are not even allowing individual Greenland dogs to return in to the country once they’ve been taken out! In addition to protecting their dogs from foreign gene contamination the Greenlanders keep preserving the original form of their dogs by using them in traditional ways; the exact ways that CREATED the “breed” in the first place. Most Northern Greenlanders sustain themselves through hunting. Since no motorized vehicles are allowed in hunts, traveling by dog teams is the most efficient way of getting to the prey and carrying the loads in Wintertime; a perfect assurance for the steady future of their dogs in the original form and intention.

        It’s the Arctic that created the breed, and only the harsh arctic conditions of life and work can continue to select for the Inuit Sled Dog’s superior qualities. It is so foolish to believe that this can be replaced and even “improved” by Kennel Clubs, registrations, pedigrees, dog shows, breeding kennels, breeding programs and enthusiasts like Brian, you or myself.

        The most BOTHERSOME thing of all is the continued and ever persistent European arrogance! The Inuit world has been trampled over, the people have been forced to settle in settlements and their dogs have been made “useless”. The dogs’ biology has been compromised through careless interbreeding with Southern dog breeds (the RCMP’s attempts to “improve” on the otherwise “unmanageable” Inuit Dog), their numbers decimated from introduced infectious diseases and a deliberate en masse slaughter by the authorities, under the excuse of bringing structure and order! On top of the bitter mistakes of the past, the INUIT DOGS are to this day stubbornly, persistently and insultingly being named with a derogatory “Eskimo” term! To add salt to the injury, in an overbearingly patronizing way a role has been adopted in “saving” the “last” of their dogs.

      • Costa Botes says:

        Considerable food for thought there! I much appreciate your tone, which I think permits of more open minded debate than some people who have written to me expressing similar views.

        Basically, I think what you say has merit, and for that reason I am publishing it on my site.

        Perhaps you will find my film frustrating, I’m not sure; if the nub of your objection is that Inuit have become culturally divorced from their dogs, and that now a handful of European dog breeders (i.e Bill Carpenter or Brian Ladoon) are unfairly seen as being saviours of the breed?

        I have to read your notes a couple of times, but my first impression is you seem to be saying that there has been a Eurocentric interpretation of the dogs fate, but this is both unfair and wrong, that the only real purpose and future of the dogs is with Inuit.

        In my heart of hearts I cannot agree with either conclusion, though absolutely I agree the dogs originated with Inuit, and ideally their future must ideally be linked with the culture that begat them as well.

        I have stated repeatedly that The Last Dogs of Winter is not a definitive history of Inuit Sled Dogs (happy to use that term … it’s meaningful; though not the official name – this must be someone else’s fight, not mine!).

        It’s a film about one man, and his dogged (pardon the pun) perseverance and passion in keeping a viable colony of dogs going through thick and thin over 40 years.

        The story of the relationship between Inuit and their dogs is much bigger. It was not available to me, either financially or culturally.

        I am very interested in the idea of ‘utility’. When is a dog ‘useless’, and when is it necessary?

        I’m not clear if you’re talking about an ideal or reality in extolling the virtues of the Inuit/Sled Dog relationship. Despite a couple of dialogues with people of like mind to yourself I have been unable to ascertain any hard facts concerning numbers of Inuit Sled Dogs in Northern Canada, and how they are used or integrated into Inuit life today. I will look at all your links with interest.

        The description of

        Regarding the passages in your note dealing with the situation in Greenland:

        1. the story you tell here of what is currently going on in Greenland is fascinating if correct, and would make a very interesting film in itself. I was not able to access much if any information like this prior to making my film.
        2. Your description of ideal conditions for raising these dogs is actually not really very far from Brian Ladoon’s practice. The main difference being that he is unable at present to let his dogs run and hunt. Though the operation is evolving, and it is hoped they will be able to set up and maintain teams of working dogs in the near future.

        Many thanks,

        Costa Botes

      • igordragoslavic says:

        Costa,

        I am thrilled that despite my usage of some pretty harsh statements that could easily be interpreted as hostile and accusatory you’ve managed to very correctly read the tone as friendly and constructive. It’s always tricky to get the correct tone from emails (blog posts), especially in this case where you ended up being the receiver of my pent up frustration with the old attitudes and the too much misinformation floating around.

        The nub of my objection is that the Inuit never did get culturally divorce from their dogs; quite contrary. They did get nearly completely robbed of their dogs by the arrogant European interference, and now the same arrogance allows the Europeans’ claims to be the saviors of the dogs. Bill Carpenter did awful lot to keep many dogs from ill fate. Brian Ladoon is doing whatever he can in his own way. The line is crossed though when it’s claimed (by others) that they have “the last dogs”. The problem stems from the perception that only those few registered dogs are true representatives of their kind, while the unregistered dogs are ignored and completely overlooked. The reality is exactly the opposite: the dogs’ only chance of survival is in their natural environment and through the selection mechanisms that created them in the first place. Bill Carpenter understood this very well and accordingly had his “program” intended only as a temporary measure till things get sorted out and the Inuit get time to adjust to the new circumstances. Bill did “give back” many dogs to the Inuit. True to the Inuit ways (and very understandably) none of the “returned” dogs continued to be registered, so the bureaucrats wrote them off as lost; a typical misunderstanding between the two cultures. And now on top of everything, everyone has their heads in the sand about the tens of thousands of dogs in Greenland, that are as pure and plentiful as can be! I guess their “non existence” comes in big part from the lack of their money making ability for us (Canadians), or in their inability to give us the opportunities in generating warm hero feelings through campaigns for saving them.

        Again, Bill and Brian types can only bee temporary aids; never lasting solutions. If this dog is to be permanently taken out of it’s environment and away from it’s original work demands, it will surely be doomed to a level of change beyond recognition. Such a change has been very clearly demonstrated with the Alaskan Malamute that is essentially an Inuit Dog, but after being taken out of it’s environment and bred by Southerners for “pet qualities” it quickly became a very distant shadow of his ancestor.

        Do we agree that the Inuit “own” the breed? If we do, then we should agree that they also have the right to name it, especially if the “Eskimo” term is derogatory to them? Since they’ve clearly chosen the name ( http://www.assembly.nu.ca/about-legislative-assembly/official-animal-nunavut ), it should be the end of the subject for everyone else.

        You seem to follow Brian’s logic that it’s not up to him to use a name other than the official “Canadian Eskimo Dog”. This is official only in the books of the Canadian Kennel Club, that has the agenda of controlling the registrations and receiving the fees. It’s not surprising then that they negate the purity and the validity of all unregistered dogs and that they insist on the difference in the name. The Government of Nunavut calls the same dog (do we agree it is the SAME dog?) a Canadian Inuit Dog. Surely they too have a political agenda in distancing them selves from Greenland, but at least they’ve removed the derogative “Eskimo” that’s clearly unwanted by the Inuit.

        The scientific name “Canis Familiaris Borealis” reveals that the science too recognizes all Inuit dogs to be the same, regardless if they are from Canada of Greenland and if they are registered or not.

        Do you see how the “name” is one of the main vehicles in political agenda’s? The choice of which name to use isn’t simply a benign preference or adherence to official terms, like you present it. Instead, it is clearly an expression of which authority (the Inuit or the newcomer’s) one recognizes and aligns oneself with, and chooses to further promote. It is a choice between trusting the weekend dog show judge, or the Inuit elder who grew up in the world where his/her life depended on deep understanding of the workings of one of the harshest environment on this planet.

        I agree with you that the only real purpose and future of the dogs is not only with the Inuit, but I should add that it SURELY can not be without the Inuit.

        I do share your admiration of Brian Ladoon’s passion and perseverance.

        To answer your question about “utility” versus “useless” (I assume you meant working dog versus a pet). It’s not one versus other, but turning the Inuit Dog in to a pet would very quickly change it, like it happened to the Alaskan Malamute, Siberian Husky and many other breeds. Don’t get me wrong, I have two Arctic born Inuit Dogs and I keep them as pets (although they are extremely well exercised and used for sledding in Winter time), but I would never dream of breeding them and believing that their offspring would be comparable to their kin that continues to survive in the Arctic conditions, not to mention the further separated generations down the road.

        Your question about the hard facts in numbers? I do not have any hard facts handy. I have many personal friends (some of them Inuit) in the Arctic that keep dog teams. The Nunavut Quest is a an annual race across the Baffin Island in Nunavut that allows only Inuit Dogs and Inuit style sleds. It is widely popular with dozens of teams participating; each team having a dozen or so dogs. In Nunavic (Northern Quebec) there is the annual Ivakkak race that also allows only Inuit Dogs and Inuit style sleds. From their website ( http://ivakkak.com/ ) it is obvious that the dogs are plentiful and they are doing very well in their own element, even though in the 50’s and 60’s they were completely eliminated in that part of the country.

        The race participants are only a fraction of the people that keep traditional dog teams in the authentic conditions and the environment, so do the math. In Northern Greenland most of the towns have more dogs than people. The facts are a lot easier to come by if you Google search “Inuit Dogs”, “Inuit Sled Dogs”, “Canadian Inuit Dogs” and “Greenland Dogs”, instead of “Canadian Eskimo Dogs” ;)

        Don’t get me wrong; just because I am pointing to the greater numbers of dogs it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a concern about their long term existence. But limiting their numbers to only the descendants of “Bill’s” registered dogs can not serve any purpose other than stroking the egos (and in some cases filling the pockets) of their owners.

        As you can see I can go on and on about this subject, especially when I hit a fertile ground like I suspect you are :) Please don’t hesitate to ask for any type of clarification or additional information.

        Cheers, Igor

      • Costa Botes says:

        I thank you for this very constructive and informative addition to the debate and have no hesitation in publishing it here verbatim. I do not have any argument with anything you have to say. I’m glad you accept that Brian’s motives are essentially driven by passion rather than profit. I believe many criticisms of this man are driven by misunderstanding, misinterpretation, and downright misinformation. It’s a matter of some interpretation, perhaps, and definitely there will be a divergence of agendas when it comes to who should rightfully take credit or blame for the fate of many of these dogs last century. And who should have authority for naming or defining the breed. You’re right, it’s absolutely political. As an outsider, I guess my stance is to be as neutral on that as possible. Plus I’m learning more all the time.

        Overall, I would say I’m thrilled to hear that these magnificent animals are with us in numbers. Collectively we owe them their existence.

        This in no significant way diminishes the metaphorical power of my film’s theme, which celebrates the perseverance of dogs, bears, and humans alike. Whatever the context around it, I believe my film is true to its topic and characters and the small world I documented.

        Many thanks again,

        Costa

      • igordragoslavic says:

        I am really looking forward to seeing the film. You’ve hit the jackpot in putting a hot debate on the table and have opened the door to better understanding; a success all documentaries should strive for!

        All the best, Igor

      • Costa Botes says:

        Thank you.

        Of course, I’m more interested in opening the door to understanding than the hot debate. Thus far I’ve observed some people getting very angry and rather drifting off the point – which surely is to make better lives for ourselves and the animals we have chosen to interfere with.

        Longer term it is my hope to make a fiction feature film utilising some of the same elements as in my documentary, and I am finding contributions like yours very helpful in increasing my appreciation of both dogs and the northern world.

        Feel free to keep in touch.

        The movie’s next public outing will be at IDFA, in Amsterdam where it is screening in the programme, Reflecting Images: Best of Fests. The official programme with screening dates and times is due out tomorrow on the IDFA web site.

        We have no distribution lined up in Canada as yet. You are most welcome to lobby any of the major Canadian film distributors on my behalf! It’s a very competitive market, but my guess is they will be looking for signs that a movie can capture an audience’s imagination and inspire strong word of mouth.

        FYI:

        Variety review of the film http://www.variety.com/review/ VE1117946023/ and the TiFF page for the film http://tiff.net/filmsandschedules/tiff/2011/lastdogsofwinter in case you dont have them already.

        And various other links, you may be interested in reading.

        http://www.nzherald.co.nz/movies/news/article.cfm?c_id=200&objectid=10751748

        http://www.torontostandard.com/daily-cable/last-minute-tiff-options

        http://www.wireimage.com/ItemListings.aspx?igi=518219&nbc1=1&NavTyp=CAL

        http://www.dailyxy.com/lead-stories/2011-toronto-international-film-festival-4/

        NATIONAL RADIO http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/audio/2500213/feature-guests-costa-botes-and-caleb-ross

        I will make a point of being clearer on the issue of the dogs name in future interviews.

        Best,

        Costa

  42. Hillary says:

    Hi,
    I’ve wanted to leave a comment on here since I heard about the project and I decided I better actually do it. I just wanted to say thanks, I just graduated film school and have had some work on Documentaries. Keeping up with the blog has been a joy for me to see what it is like and I am really looking forward to seeing the final film. So thanks again and good luck with the next stages.

  43. Tracey Stevens says:

    Great work guys and wonderful news to wake up to this morning. Proud…much

  44. Joanne Stover says:

    Wonderful news re your film! I was bragging of the wonderful things about Churchill, while out visiting family this past week in Windsor, Ontario, telling them why I’ve chosen to live where I do (this week marks the start of our 25th year of calling Churchill our home, when we’d originally planned on only a couple of years at most!). I look forward to seeing your completed documentary and adding yet another reason to talk of, for this choice of ours. The old saying, “You learn something new every day,” is so abundantly true when you have the privilege of living in an amazing northern world where nature is right at your fingertips. (Most of the time, those fingertips are encased in mittens, I must say!) Hope we have a gala opening night right here in our own Polar Cinema!

  45. Jo says:

    Shine under the Canadian Stars in Toronto.
    Hard and excellent work like this must be rewarded.
    All the very best, Jo

    And thanks for all your assistance to date :).

  46. Pam says:

    Looking forward to viewing your movie at TIFF. I have been to Churchill numerous times and am patiently waiting to see your take on this controversial character.

    • Costa Botes says:

      Looking forward to sharing it with a canadian audience. I hope you enjoy it, or that it provides some tangent or insight. You’re right – it is just my ‘take’. Churchill is a complicated place – one could make many different films there. this is just one.

      • Pam says:

        I meant to send you a message ages ago. I saw your movie at TIFF and really enjoyed it. I brought along a couple other people, who haven’t experienced Churchill but have heard all of my stories and they loved the filmed too. Thanks for helping me to share the ruggedness and character of the people and place with my friends and family.

        You should try getting it aired on the CBC (you probably already have, but just in case you didn’t know they do run a lot of documentaries.) http://www.cbc.ca/documentarychannel

      • Costa Botes says:

        Thanks for the feedback Pam.

        Trying hard, but not having much luck with Canadian broadcasters as yet. Will keep trying.

        Cheers,

        Costa

  47. Tracey Stevens says:

    Congrats on the most wonderful review in Variety, always knew you guys would knock them dead.
    The last minute rush may have paid off, less time for thinking which sometimes seems to get in the way, well done.

  48. Pingback: CALEB ROSS AND COSTA BOATES – THINK PRESERVING ALASKA’S WILDLIFE IN NEW DOCUMENTARY « Horiwood's Blog

  49. Ben White says:

    Awesome previews, can’t wait to see the whole thing. I am from NZ too, went to Churchill in late 2009 for the bears and it’s an amazing place. If only I had more money (or a job I wouldn’t mind leaving) I’d love to go back again for a year and help out with these amazing dogs!

  50. Thanks for a terrific movie experience – loved the film. An inspiration for our own filmmaking team about to make a documentary in Yellowknife called North Paws. All the best of luck on the circuit for you all!

  51. Pingback: Review of The Last Dogs of Winter (2011) « Pretty Clever Films

  52. Rikke says:

    Hey, I’ve been following your project for a while and I’d love to see the film with my class in English. Do you have any idea when/ or it will be avilable in other countries? It’s an interesting subject to work with at school!
    Congrats with excellent reviews, can’t wait to see it:-)
    All the best
    Norwegian teacher

    • Costa Botes says:

      A general reply to everyone inquiring about access to The Last Dogs of Winter, via theatres, DVD, or online. Please understand that the movie has only just been finished. TIFF was the world premiere. The documentary market worldwide is very tough and fickle. It is incredibly difficult to secure distribution deals. Obviously, my hope is that territory by territory we will be able to secure reasonable deals with local distributors capable of delivering the movie to audiences. This takes time, and is by no means a guaranteed process. I am crossing fingers and toes that the very positive reaction gained by my movie at TIFF will encourage distributors and exhibitors to give it a try. I would encourage anyone with an interest in seeing the film to alert their local cinemas, write, or phone a national distributor – share links of reviews and this web site. If they see evidence that there’s an audience out there, they will do something about it. I cannot provide DVD copies directly at this time. Please appreciate that we have to protect the film from risk of internet piracy until such time as all reasonable steps have been taken to show it in theatres. Thanks to everyone for your continued interest and support. Means a lot!

  53. SMR says:

    A beautiful movie – thank you for sharing the story. Unfortunately I was to see the film with my girlfriend at TIFF, but she had to rush her mom to the hospital right before the show thereby missing the movie. Her mom is now on the mend, but my gf is still sad she missed the movie. Any chance of purchasing or receiving a copy so she too can share in the story? Thank-you.

  54. Guusje says:

    Hi! Can I see this full movie in my country, Holland? I like this so much..!!!! Greets from the Netherlands :D

  55. Chiara says:

    Dear Costa,

    Thank you for making this movie and all your efforts to make it as natural as possible! Being from Amsterdam, cannot wait for the Dutch premiere! Please, do keep us up to date, so we can see it in the Theatres: definately do not want to miss out on it! I am sure it’s going to be educational movie with mixed emotions. With so much animal torture around the globe, how can anyone judge a person in his believes & goals to save an exceptional breed? I am sure Brian wishes better for his chained CED’s, maybe some people should make an effort in voluntering~for helping the future of the breed~ instead of only making comments on the dislikes??? You do not have to agree with eachother once to ultimate goal is to protect the breed, which actually should have been done ages ago!

    • Costa Botes says:

      In case you missed the anouncement on my Dogs of Winter page or Facebook, the film is an official selection at IDFA, screening in Amsterdam in November. I expect we’ll get at least 2-3 shows. Dates TBC very soon.

      Thank you for being open minded Chiara. Do please come to an IDFA screening and introduce yourself. This issue of ‘torturing dogs’ comes up now and then, and is mostly driven by misplaced sentiment and ignorance. At the extreme end, I’ve heard and read such nonsense it has frankly made me sick. If we are going to keep a breed like this hardy and viable, we can’t bring them inside and sit them down by the TV. They must be exposed to nature. But they are not suffering. They love the cold, and they cope fine. Their lives may be more restricted in Churchill than I’d personally like to see, but Brian can only do so much. Yes, you are quyite right. If some of the same self righteous individuals who condemn this man for doing what he thinks is right actually volunteered their time to go work with the dogs, then there would be a net improvement in all their outlooks. In fact, far from helping the dogs, these self appointed guardians of animal rights are on a course to get some or all of them killed.

  56. My brother recommended I may like this web site. He was once totally right. This post truly made my day. You cann’t believe just how a lot time I had spent for this information! Thanks!

  57. Sjoerd says:

    Yesterday was the premiere at IDFA.
    It is a movie I wil never forget. Despite the topic it gives a feeling of total timelessness.

  58. You actually make it appear really easy along with your presentation however I in finding this matter to be actually one thing that I believe I’d by no means understand. It seems too complex and extremely huge for me. I’m having a look forward for your subsequent publish, I’ll attempt to get the hold of it!

  59. Mark says:

    You gotaa love those dogs.

    We almost moved to Canada 2 years ago with the purpose of buying and then breeding Siberian Huskies. Sadly our trip was cancelled and everything fell through. I havent watched your movie yet but will endevour to get it ASAP.

    thanks for the tiem and effort you have obviously put into this.

    Mark

  60. Claire Bartron says:

    This looks as though it is going to be a truly remarkable documentary; and I hope that it is screened, or at the very least made available in Australia. I work in Conservation and it can be difficult to get the message across to people in a way that makes them care about the species and ecosystems you are trying to save in an increasingly modified environment to the point that they take positive action to help; and from the footage I have seen, and the comments left on this page, it seems you, and all those working with these beautiful animals, are doing just that. Hats off to Caleb for his involvement as well, I have no doubt that his celebrity has been a big help in raising the awareness of the campaigns and this documentary, and more awareness means more public action and funding which are vital in conservation actions. That is not too trivialise his involvement as merely being a public face as it is obvious that he wholeheartedly dedicated years of his life to working with Brian Ladoon.

    In regards to the comments about the the limited freedom of the CEDs in the documentary it is a sad fact that the individuals of most species being kept in captive situations live a life far more restricted than their truly wild counterparts, but people have to look at the bigger picture. Many species are in existence today as a result of captive breeding programmes, and while those animals released to re-populate their native habitat (what is left of it) live free lives, those actually involved in the breeding live most, if not all of their lives in captivity, in small enclosures. It is sad but funding to conservation programmes is wildly insufficient and those working to save these species simply have to do the best they can with their limited resources.

    My hope is that those who watch what promises to be an amazing story take some positive action, however small, into helping the natural environment and consider how their actions may negatively impact on the world that so many species, such as the CED, solely rely on for their continued existence.

    Regards
    Claire

    • Costa Botes says:

      Thanks for your thoughts Claire. Much appreciated.

      The interesting irony here is that CEDs or Inuit Sled Dogs were never a wild, free species. The breed evolved as companion animals. Then they simultaneously lost their utility due to the advent of petrol powered technology, and the vital link to the people whose lives and culture they shared as Inuit were compelled to live in settlements and give up their traditional nomadic lifestyles ‘on the land’.

      My film deals with the local efforts of one man to keep a viable breeding colony of CEDs going over forty years. And also looks at the unique interaction of his dogs with wild polar bears, which are going through a protracted lifestyle evolution of their own, due to the combined effects of global warming and human encroachment on their habitat.

      My own feeling is that the situation in Churchill could be sustainable with no harm to either bears or dogs, and I hope this movie promotes the kind of understanding or tolerance that might facilitate this.

      On a wider level, the fate of CEDs in Canada and the Arctic must rest with the people that originally bred the dogs. Based on correspondence I’ve had since completing the picture, I am much more optimistic that Inuit Sled Dogs have a viable future.

  61. David says:

    When and where can i get this documentary? I must see it! Looks like a beautiful film.

    Cheers,
    Dave

    • Costa Botes says:

      Thanks David. I hope you can get to see it before too long. As I have stated repeatedly on this blog, the first priority now is to get exposure for the movie via film festivals. It was made to be seen on a big screen. DVD release is of course an option down the track, but after other avenues have been tried first. You may or may not appreciate the damaged state of traditional film exhibition. Releasing prematurely to DVD is an invitation to wholesale piracy. It’s a shame that the internet, with all its potential for great things, has (in the short term at least) enabled a culture of casual theft, with no respect at all for the rights of content creators. I have not yet heard any convincing arguments why this might be a good thing. Meantime I have tried to be as informative as time permits on this blog, and made clips available for viewing. My plea to anyone interested in seeing The Last Dogs if Winter is talk to your local exhibitors/distributors/theatre owners/TV channels. If any of them are interested in deviating from the usual homogenous diet of Hollywood fare and plastic cable TV shows, I’m happy to supply them with something different.

      • This is a cause I’m remarkably moved by. My sister in fact has some ties in the SAG and other communities of American actors. If you can share some of the amazing stories with her activism is something she can certainly promote. Speak with me on facebook and we’ll work together in this, we can create a movement that will inspire the inclusion of hundreds of thousands of dog lovers and respecters of tradition. I look forward to hearing from you. Add Tonya A. Torres-Akers

  62. Hi Costa,
    I’ve been seeing some traffic coming my way in the last view days for the Last Dogs of Winter post. Is the film currently screening somewhere? I would love to share any current or upcoming screenings with my readers, as it’s my fervent wish that everyone would see this film!

    Thanks,

    Brandy

  63. Susanne says:

    Hi Costa,

    I’m from Germany and the documentary seems to be really interesting. Never seen something like this before. Can you tell me whether the movie will be available in Germany? Or any other opportunity to see the complete film?

    Thx a lot

    • Costa Botes says:

      As I have stated a number of times in this blog, I’m afraid we are rather at the mercy of a very difficult environment for independent films, particularly documentaries. My hopes of even very limited theatrical distribution seem increasingly forelorn. At this stage, while the film is still being actively promoted to international festivals, there is no upside to rushing it out on DVD. The inevitable result will be its appearance on 10,000 illegal downloading sites. No thanks. I’m still in ‘wait and see’ mode. Most likely I will eventually offer it for sale via download, in tandem with broadcast sales.

      On a general note, as I have had many such enquiries, the film is available as a DCP (Digital Cinema Package), which means a file can be provided to any DCP equipped cinema anywhere in the world. I am willing to negotiate special screenings if anyone out there is willing and able to be proactive. Contact your local cinemas and see if you can find anyone willing to run it for a weekend or a week.
      I can support this with press kits, poster art, and interviews.

  64. I’m not certain the place you are getting your info, however great topic. I must spend some time learning more or working out more. Thanks for fantastic info I used to be searching for this info for my mission.

    • Costa Botes says:

      Any info on my site is either gleaned from personal experience, or has been contributed by reputable third parties. I’m not suggesting the site is anything but what it is – a record of one film and the issues it is about. You’ll need to go much wider to get a fuller picture of the history and nature of Inuit Sled Dogs.

  65. Pingback: The Last Dogs of Winter | Canadian Inuit Dogs

  66. Dear Costa,

    I am a journalist from Germany, working for the magazine “mare” (www.mare.de). I spent some time last november in Churchill with Brian doing research for a story about the town and the bears. I would love to see your movie and to mention it in my article, is there any possibility of downloading it yet somewhere?

    All the best
    Martina

  67. backlinks says:

    Very good conntent I will recommend it to my friends.

  68. Daniel Labelle says:

    Dear Mr Costa,
    I never really comment publicly on any thing. but its important for me to let you know that i was please see that you published Mr Igor Dragoslavic comment on the reconnaissance of Bill Carpenter’s work for initiating this wonderfull dedication of breeding Qimmiq Dogs. I participated in Bill Carperter’s project in 1978 as a volunteer with Katimavik . I am looking forward to seeing your film, and like Igor i suspect it will frustrate me.
    Regards, Daniel Labelle

    • Costa Botes says:

      Hi Daniel,

      I’m not so sure you would find it frustrating, unless you were expecting the film to be a definitive history of Qimmiq in the Arctic. It isn’t. It’s the story of one breeder, of his passion and persistence over 40 years, and the trials he faces maintaining a vision which is by no means understood or agreed with by others with a passion for these remarkable dogs. Bill Carpenter’s story is important and interesting, but that’s a tale for another film.

      Many thanks,
      Costa Botes

    • a1a1a1 says:

      Dear Mr. Labelle,

      I should add that I did see the film since I made my comments on this site. The film was shown to me by Caleb, in February 2012. This was in Churchill while I was staying with Brian for a week and helped him with the dogs. I must say that the film is well done and I enjoyed watching it. It’s really a film about Brian Ladoon’s unique personality, and not about the Qimmiq. The dogs are portrayed mostly from Brian’s perspective, which of course is very subjective. The biggest problem with the film is that the subjectivity of the claims is not clarified, so a misinformed viewer could easily conclude that the Qimmiq related statements are objectively confirmed, factual and scientific.

      Sincerely, Igor Dragoslavic

      • Costa Botes says:

        Right, thanks Igor. This is why I’m happy to host a wider debate here. A movie has to be a self contained emotional experience, with a coherent point of view. That said, I don’t think there’s anything in Last Dogs of Winter which can fairly be construed as misleading. The most contentious claim would be around the rarity of the dogs. But whether there are 300 left or 30,000, there can be no doubt that the spirit embodied by these animals, and the place that sustains that spirit, are both under threat of extinction. That’s really the deeper subtext driving my film. It may not be entirely scientific, or objectively confirmed, but I honestly think it’s factual.
        Thanks! Costa

  69. Daniel Labelle says:

    Thanks for your explanation, in some ways i feel that it make more sense now and i can share my passion with Brian as i remember going out fishing for Bill’s project in the winter of 1978 with tempertures of -48 c at 6:00 am in the morning on the Great Slave Lake to feed the Dogs. i can’t wait to see your movie now.

  70. David says:

    How can I see this movie? I live in Toronto

    • Costa Botes says:

      I guess you missed our world premiere screenings at Toronto Film Festival last year? I am letting the movie work its way through the world festival circuit, then going to try selling a shorter broadcast version. As far as the long ‘directors cut’ feature goes, no luck this far getting a deal for either broadcast or theatrical. I could sell DVDs directly, but that opens the door wide for piracy. Too soon. If you have a local cinema that’s equipped with DCP, or some other ‘digital cinema’ capability, and you’re able to organise a showing, I’m open to discussing how that might work.

  71. Michelle says:

    Hi, cant wait to see the film here in Auckland NZ next week..does anyone know if the Samoyed are any way related to these Inuit dogs??

    • Costa Botes says:

      There is surely a common ancestor in asian dogs. Recent DNA testing has established that the Inuit dogs are not directly related to wolves. It was commonly thought they were the result of matings between dogs domesticated by people and wolves, but that is not the case. Most people look at these dogs and immediately want to call them Huskies. They are quite different. First clue is the eyes. Dark brown eyes, as opposed to Huskies and Malamutes hard blue stares. Then the coats – Inuit dogs are all colours, from pure white to pure black, and everything in between. They have the characteristic curly tails of northern dogs. I’m not an expert. I’m sure Mr Google can reveal much more on the topic.

      • Pardon me Costa,??. Malamutes “hard blue stares”. In what country? On what planet??
        Malamutes have brown eyes, any thing else and they are not malamutes, but rather a disgusting mix breed.
        I saw you on breakfast TV on TVNZ. Nice interview,perhaps a little laidback. Some of that ‘passion’ you referred to just wasn’t there.
        And finally try not to be too precious about DVD’s. You would outsell pirated DVD’s 10,000 to 1. Get the thing out onto the market before everything goes cold. Pardon the pun.
        Looks like a job well done. Congratulations and best regards, A Canadian living in NZ.

      • Costa Botes says:

        OK, my bad. Apologies to all Malamute lovers. The only two Malamutes I have ever met up close had piercing blue eyes. Obviously I should have done more research before stereotyping them.

        Re my levels of passion or otherwise, you place too much weight on your own judgement, Sir, but I’ll refrain from further comment. Anyone that knows me or my work is free to make up their own mind. You are free to behave how you like in public, but it’s not my style to beat my breast on live TV.

        Finally, I will respectfully suggest that your comments on DVDs and piracy are way off base. I would love to sell as many DVDs as I can, as soon as I can, but there are some very boring, and unavoidable obstacles to that. If anyone out there wants to take on the costs of printing 10,000 DVDS and then finding a way to distribute them to everyone that wants one, do please get in touch. It really is not as simple as it looks.

        I am not worried about pirated DVDs. I am worried about my work being ripped off and traded online via illegal file sharing. This is not a matter of fanciful paranoia. It is a business reality.

  72. Michelle says:

    Thanks Costa, yep been working on Mr Google and found this interesting link http://www.canadianinuitdogs.com/2012/02/23/yellowknife-journal-in-far-north-fabled-dogs-come-bounding-back/ Samoyeds have the brown eyes also and the article links the C/Inuit to the Spitz breed family. Your film doco sounds amazing as I read through all the posts and I am sure will provide much needed exposure, recognition and awareness. Any chance of getting National Geographic to air it internationally?? as it must surely sit in an arena that is close to their goals..educating and preservation.

    • Costa Botes says:

      No luck with nat geo. a lot of their stuff is either in house, or very formatted. Not a lot of scope for feature length or more idiosyncratic work. We have not seriously pushed it to broadcasters yet anyway. Letting the film work through festivals. When it comes to marketing to tv, likely I will be selling a cut down version. Grab the chance to see full length directors cut while you can!

      Thanks for sharing the link and info.

    • Costa Botes says:

      Great article, but a little out of date in respect to Bill Carpenter. I believe illness and finacial difficulties closed down his historic mission not long after this piece was written. Meanwhile, there is certainly a tragic irony in the fact that one of the prime motives in the north for keeping Inuit Sled Dogs is to hunt polar bears.

  73. Michelle says:

    Hello Costa,
    Yes I’m definitely heading to see that full length version with a few friends next week…having owned Samoyed’s and immersing oneself in their noble history I often pondered exactly how far removed the pet at my side had become from his ancestral roots and the working role they once played..they too were once all colours and now only pure white, once they hunted polar bears and herded reindeer..much like these ancient Inuit dogs..to ever lose these dogs from our world or the polar bears is something unimaginable yet it is only by the sheer fortitude and determination of men such as Brian and Bill, and yourself the storyteller, that keeps these hopes alive…and for that I thank you…I also found this little film made in 1966 that you may enjoy if you haven’t already viewed http://www.nfb.ca/playlists/unikkausivut-sharing-our-stories/viewing/tuktu_eskimo_dogs/

  74. Michelle says:

    Sorry don’t mean to overload you with links but this is a tragically sad and compelling doco about how the Inuit lost their dogs and their unique way of life..yet both are still surviving and holding on to each other.. just….one inextricably linked to the other. http://www.nfb.ca/film/qimmit-clash_of_two_truths

    • Costa Botes says:

      I saw this after I finished my movie. It’s a bit uninspired, but the topic is interesting. I was aware of strong feelings in the North about who was to blame for the demise of Inuit dogs. This seems an even handed treatment.

  75. nancy lehew says:

    Costa , noooo! please don’t cut the original version ! I’m sure it could never be the same without the original content. I have not been able to see it yet but when I do I want to See every bit of what you all worked so hard for.

    • Costa Botes says:

      Hi Nancy,

      Tv broadcasters just aren’t buying feature length pieces on the whole. It is a royal pain, to be sure. And meantime, standard modes of distribution like theatres and DVD are in serious peril. For small, marginal film makers like me, it is a disastrous time.

      I have to make a one hour version to have any hope of making sales, though I will do my best to make the full directors cut available in the near future via DVD and online Video On Demand, it is really tough to achieve the kind of wide and rapid distribution some people seem to think is normal. It is not. Except for a small number of major studio releases.

      Best,

      Costa

      Lone Pine Films 89 Awarua Street, Ngaio Wellington 6035 New Zealand

      Mobile: +64 21 1352176

      Sent from my iPad

  76. Kate Lang says:

    Wonderful film and remarkable footage of the dogs and bears! (and I’m a cat person). I hope a supportive and honest fund-raising drive will emerge from the exposure of Brian’s work through this film. I was busy recommending it to people today, when we found out the last screening at the Bridgeway is sold out. How much did you say a copy of it costs? Or, will there be an additional screening and subsequent release in NZ? Thank you and yours and Caleb and Brian and all.

    • Costa Botes says:

      Hi Kate,

      Thanks for that. I hope there will be some positive activity generated too.

      Depending on the outcome of our NZIFF screenings I was going to risk trying for a wider cinema release later in the year. I am feeling more confident about doing this now after the great reception in Auckland.

      I am aiming to get the picture on in selected theatres around September and October. Cross fingers. A DVD release might be possible after that, most likely in the new year. I am unlikely to offer the full version to NZ broadcasters. Maybe a shortened cut, depending on interest.

      Meantime, I’m happy so many people came along and enjoyed the feature.

  77. Nick says:

    Dear Costa, I saw your film last night at the Bridgway-you cant make an omelette without breaking eggs.If you have to tread on some toes (mixing my metaphors) to save a breed or species then so be it. The world is full of whiners sitting on their bums.
    Nick

    • Costa Botes says:

      Yes, quite true. Though to be fair, there are a complex of forces involved, and the agendas all have some merit. I’m on the side of the dogs, and the bears!

  78. Michelle says:

    Hi again Costa,

    This film has touched me in a way no other ever has..I have not been able to get it out of my head or senses since seeing it on Monday at the Civic and I dearly hope it goes on to inspire many, many more audiences. You have truly captured Brian’s spirit, his dogged determination, his unique character, persistence and unyielding passion in the face of all manner of obstacles..most of which are man made, and as you say he is sometimes his own worst enemy. He is of the land, rugged and tough like his dogs and his environment yet you capture and portray so well the romantic, creative and artistic spirit that he also is.
    The Q&A following the movie was incredible..to be able to have Caleb to talk with and discuss the situation that is being faced and to applaud him for his massive contribution and gain further insight was such an enjoyable and informative follow on from the film..thank you so much for your time doing this.
    At this stage I don’t know quite what to do to get Brian, the dogs and the bears the assistance they need..BUT they need the world behind them..as Caleb is working with Brian towards trying to establish a viable volunteer program/charitable trust/ building an education centre and needing experienced people to get the dogs into sled teams to run them off their chains. It is a massive undertaking but if we can get people to put up their hands to help/network or whatever is needed I am sure that something economically self sustainable can be achieved..and in turn hopefully give a little back to Brian and his dogs for all that he and they have given..plus get some of the critics off his case. But most importantly ensure the survival of these magnificent dogs..we need to hope that the Inuit people will play an increasing role in this also.
    If at all possible are you able to email me a contct for Caleb as I would like to see if I can poss help him in some way.
    Thank you again for executing your craft in such a profound way.

    Kindest regards,

    Michelle

  79. Pingback: Sunday Smiles: 29 July 2012 | Sharky Oven Gloves

  80. Bob Statkiewicz says:

    I have not had the opportunity to view your movie although I have kept an eye out for a showing in my area, Baltimore, Maryland. I do have a passion for these dogs and, in fact, spend at least a week every year out in the backcountry living and traveling with them and Paul Schurke. These travels have taken me to Churchill twice and I had the pleasure of helping Brian chop the blocks of ground beef and feed the dogs.

    Please let me know how to get a showing in my area.

    Bob Statkiewicz

    • Costa Botes says:

      Hi Bob. It’s simple. Find a local cinema equipped with DCP, that’s willing to give it a try, and put me in touch with them.

      You do understand that most movies that appear in cinemas have distributors and lots of prints, and that means mostly Hollywood films. The rest of us don’t get that kind of opportunity, but thanks to digital screens, and much cheaper digital HD files that delver cinema quality, films can be shown in a much more grassroots way.

      Talk to theatres in your city that might be more likely to program alternative, or festival type films, or find an alternative venue that might be suitable – I.e conference or university theatres. You could put the film on in conjunction with a talk about your own experiences. Think outside the square. Waiting for this one to just turn up at your local multiplex, well, it won’t happen. Sorry! Wish it were otherwise.

  81. johannesaun says:

    hi costa and brian,
    i’m a german cabinetmaker and since about 7 years on a journey by bicycle around the world :)
    in the moment i’m building ( and riding :) mountain bike trails in new zealand – and here i got the chance to see your awesome documentary about the beautiful qimmiqs.. and was very impressed !!, not only by the effort and work you guys put into saving those precious animals, but also about the fight you have to pull off against some stupid people out there..:( respect and all the best for your project !!!
    i love huskies and since i know now about the qimmiq, i decided to come and pay you guys and your dogs ( and the polar bears of corse ;) a visit – and who knows, perhaps even help you for some time :) – when i’ll finish my journey in around 4 – 5 years from now. first i plan on cycling/traveling trough south and central america towards the north. i take my time with this chapter of my life..:) so in case you are still up there and need some help, in about 4 years i’ll contact you again haha :)
    thumbs up and praises to you, keep up your spirit and don’t give up..!! :) johannes

  82. Samantha Timmins says:

    I would love to see this doc, where can I aquire it? I’m in the UK, I know I would not see it in any Cinema.
    Thanks

    Samantha

    • Costa Botes says:

      See my other comments re Last Dogs of Winter. Basically, I am happy to try and provide the film to anyone enterprising enough to organise theatrical screenings in their local area. You just need a cinema capable of screening either DCP or E-Cinema files.

      I have already organised a couple of screenings in the UK like this. It is not difficult when people are prepared to be just a little bit proactive.

      Alternatively, we have just started marketing a shorter cut for broadcasters. That will take a while to trickle through, depending on how sales go. I do intend to create a DVD, but distribution will be limited. I will do direct sales from my website, but I hope I can get a distributor interested in some territories. Most consumers really have no idea at all how tough it is to get a movie out into the marketplace. It’s very hard for all film makers outside the Hollywood studio system.

  83. Pete lamb says:

    Excellent documentary Costa. I saw with my husky enthusiast daughter today. It bought tears to my eyes. One of the best docks I’ve seen. My wife’s from Winnipeg and we have talked about going to Churchill to see the bears. Now we know about the dogs we will be keen to see them too.
    Kind regards, Pete Lamb

  84. Pingback: Review: Arrietty, Taken 2, On the Road, Life in Movement, Searching for Sugar Man, The Last Dogs of Winter and The Words | Funerals & Snakes

  85. Ange says:

    Sorry to bother you, Costa.
    I think Last Dogs of Winter may have screened not too far from myself in Australia. However, I’m entirely housebound due to mental illness, and it is an extremely rare occurence for me to leave my home, making attending such things impossible.

    I’m simply wondering whether DVD sales are only a maybe, or a definite in the future? I understand you need to wait until an appropriate time, when screenings are wrapped up and such.

    Thanks.

    • Costa Botes says:

      I do intend to make a DVD available in the near future, though this is unlikely to be found in stores, unless I get a commercial distributor in any given territory. That’s possible, but I’m not optimistic, given the current state of the industry. I will work towards making the film accessible online in some form.

  86. I am the Secretary of Thanet Film Society in Broadstairs, Kent UK. We have been screening Documentaries, World and Independent Cinema for 19 years at our classic cinema. I also have a cross Inuit Dog/Malamute/GSD! I’ve just heard about your film ‘The Last Dogs of Winter’ from a friend in Auckland and would a) Like to screen your film at our cinema, which is digital, and b) would like to buy a DVD of the film when it becomes available. I sent an email via your ‘contact us’ icon, but the message came up that the page was ‘an error’. We’ve screened many documentaries about the environment including’ The Cove’ and ‘End of the Line’. Apart from my own personal interest, we would love to screen it. We’ve recently screened ‘Searching for Sugarman’. Our web site is: http://www.thanetfilm.co.uk. We know how difficult it is to screen and scrabble with Hollywood.

    • Costa Botes says:

      Thanks Camile, I’m interested in any such initiatives that can get my movie seen by an audience. I’m sure we can work something out. Oh, and your email did get through okay.

  87. Sandra Levesque says:

    Good day Costa,
    My name is Sandra Levesque and I live in Yellowknife, NT. With my work, I have travelled in a lot of communities in the North and had the chance to get my dog on Baffin Island, she is a little Canadian Inuit dog, Maya. I completely felt in love with that breed, and I am really sensitive to their situation and the history of the breed. Anyway, I track your website for a while now given I am really interested in watching your documentary, Churchill is one of the place I have not visited yet and also heard good things about Brian from the owner of Qimmiq Kennel here in Yellowknife. i think she got some of her sled dogs from Brian. Do you know how I can watch your documentary? Do you know if it will be available on Itunes or Netflix maybe?
    Thanks for your time.
    Have a good day.
    Sandra

    • Costa Botes says:

      Hi Sandra,

      thank you for your interest. I will try to get my film onto iTunes at some time in the future. It will never be offered to Netflix.

      My primary focus now is seeking theatrical screening opportunities. I am willing to make the film available by negotiation if there is a suitably equipped cinema (Digital HD projector) willing to show it. The formats I can offer are DCP, E-Cinema (Mpeg2 Program Stream), or DVD.

      Cheers,

      Costa

  88. Ally McBride says:

    Hi Costa, I was in Churchill in October 2012 and saw your poster in the Hudson Bay shop and was delighted to find that you were also from NZ! I saw Brian’s dogs while watching the polar bears in that bleak environment. I have returned to Wellington and would love to see the movie but sounds like I may have to wait???
    These dogs need a more secure future.
    Cheers, Ally

    • Costa Botes says:

      Security seems to be in short supply up there … but it’s far from hopeless.

      My film is showing at the NZ Film Archive this month:

      When: From Wednesday, 16 January 2013
      Season: Wednesday – Saturday at 7pm, from 16 until 26 January
      Where: The Film Archive, Wellington info
      Time: 7:00pm
      Running time: 97 minutes
      Ticket price:
      $10 Public
      $8 Concession

  89. Ally McBride says:

    Wonderful. Shall be there and look forward to it. Ally

  90. Selene Nguyet says:

    Hi there,

    I’ve just watched, I guess a part of your film The last dogs of winter on K: TV – very impressive footage! I would love to watch it full – if you got it screening in vancouver.

    I love dogs so much, and I have visited Muktuk kennel up in Yukon with more than 165 huskies several times in the last 2 years.

    I think a lot of people don’t understand about husky; in the mean time, more and more people have a fantasy about dogs as royal pets; so showing your film to young generation will help raise awareness of the society towards the breed. Student society in universities can be a good contact for you to show your work.

    All the best,
    Selene M Nguyet

  91. Barbara J Sterritt says:

    Thankful that KNOW, British Columbia’s Knowledge Network aired your film tonight. My husband I were entranced with the well considered presentation
    We were taken to that area in 1969 by his brother who had started his military retirement employed with the rocket research being done in relation to the Northern Lights. We visited him and his family who lived in Churchill. Thank-you and all involved.

    • Costa Botes says:

      Thanks for the comments. I hadn’t been informed of the air date, so wasn’t sure when it was going to play. We had a great launch at Toronto so it has been frustrating waiting so long to get another chance to show the film in Canada.

  92. Donna Hayes says:

    Where can one find Brian Ladoon’s artwork? And where could one buy prints?

    • Costa Botes says:

      Hi Donna, Brian hasn’t done any painting in a long while. He has some artwork stored in his apartment – that’s where the images seen in my film come from. It’s not really my business, but I have wondered myself why he could not try to make and sell postcards and prints from his work. He does actually capture very well the place and its wildlife in his paintings.

      You can try contacting him directly via Penny and Brian’s web site, http://www.canadianeskimodogfoundation.ca/ (but be warned, they are not regular communicators).

  93. Mark says:

    Was looking to buy a DVD of this for a friend’s birthday; I must say you’re a lot more patient with people bleating about a DVD release than I would be. :) Loved the film, it was absolutely the cream of the festival for me. I’ll buy up a few copies when you start distributing–thanks so much for your excellent work!!

    • Costa Botes says:

      Well how can I be impatient with people who want to look at my work? That’s what it’s all about, after all. It is incredibly frustrating that the vagaries of distribution, especially for cash strapped indy film makers, makes it such an iffy business. Thanks for your understanding.

  94. Mira Bell says:

    I’m actually very interested in seeing this documentary. I should contact Caleb, but it seems he’s hard to find. Any ideas Costa what he’s up to now?

  95. Just watched your film this week at this year’s Bradford International Film Festival, what a visual and hearty treat, I would and will be recommending it to anyone! Here is my review at FILM inc.

  96. Angato says:

    Mr. Ladoon is exacerbating a human-wildlife conflict and basically using his dogs as bait. He is also ILLEGALLY feeding the polar bears by overfeeding his dogs, who are left chained and helpless. Many dogs and several polar bears have died because of him. DO NOT SUPPORT this film or Mr. Ladoon. For a good overview of what he is doing, visit:

    http://mytraveltales.com/2008/11/13/update-on-polar-bears-and-dogs/

    • Costa Botes says:

      That’s a highly coloured and debatable set of statements. Over feeding the dogs? Hardly. Feeding bears? Didn’t see that. The dogs helpless? Against wolves maybe. And why do wolf depradations happen? The hand of man is behind everything that gies wrong in nature. Ladoon is a very convenient scapegoat for all manner of ills. Fact. Ladoon hasn’t killed as many bears as local wildlife rangers have. And hasn’t fired a live round at bears in decades.ki Fact. The bears and dogs co-exist fine for the most part. Is Ladoon responsible for the bears getting into trouble? Some might argue that. It’s an argument expressed by critics in the film. Personally, I don’t buy it. The bears were rummaging round the Churchill dump long before Ladoon stuck his dogs way out on the coast. Bears and people. Its a problem alright. Remove Ladoon? Well, that would leave 150 rare dogs looking for someone to care for them. The usual ministration for marginalsed dogs up there appears to be neglect or shooting. So many critics. So few constructive alternatives. So how would the bears be better off? Might as well remove all of Churchill and leave it to the bears. Like that’s going to happen. Local petty jealousies over who gets to exploit a natural resource are involved as well in this toxic brew. This film touches on all that. It’s not an unvarnished hagiography. A lot of what Ladoon does is heroic. A lot isn’t. The film is a picture of a character in a hard place. He has his reasons. We dont have to agree with them, but we can try to understand, and get past kneejerk Reactions based on assumptions or hearsay. I’m obviously prepared to allow contrary opinions and debate in this comments section, but I will jump on obviously defamatory or false statements, so think twice before posting.

  97. Daniel Labelle says:

    i need to see the film so i can have an opinion on the situation.
    Daniel Labelle
    Miami FL

  98. Rod Clough says:

    Hello Costa,
    I so totally enjoyed this film, I must have watched it (while it was streaming on TKN) at least 20 times.. and now here I am on your site trying to find out how I can buy it. A fantastic film in so many ways….
    I have found it a bit surprising that the general reaction from people seems to be their concern for the dogs out there in the elements which I think was addressed in the film, but not fully appreciated by many it seems..
    I personally own a few Malamutes (yes the brown eyed ones lol) that I basically spend all of my time with in support of their general happiness and feel that maybe my dogs have given me a bit of personal insight into this question, yet when I explain it to people they generally dont seem to get it.
    My dogs have extremely long (thick coats) and come from a working sled dog environment, so their coats are probably similar to some of Brians dogs except that my dogs are “lap dogs”(to quote Brian) and are acclimatized to Vancouver BC weather which might as well be the tropics as compared to Churchill. Even considering the warm temperatures here, my dogs are happiest pulling the sled when the temperature is at least -15 to – 20C and anything above -5C? Forget it… they overheat in 10 minutes. I dont know exactly how cold they would enjoy but my dogs will spend hours laying around in -20C and not even appear phased by it. To me, they appear the most comfortable at these temperatures. When its that cold outside – they want to be in it!
    Of course everyone is entitled to their opinion and all but when I stumbled on the PETA website and read their concern about Brian’s dogs left out in the cold with no shelter I have to say I was pretty dissapointed. I mean heres an organization that has a world full of mistreated animals that need help and yet they focus on Brian?? But not long enough to learn anything about these awesome dogs I guess…
    Seems no one is concerned abot the Polar Bears being too cold, and the dogs appear to be every bit as well equipped to handle the temperatures as the bears are.
    Anyways, your a pretty darn cool person for stepping out into something like this, and sticking with it. Shows some true character in my opinion.
    Thank you for doing what you have so far for those awesome dogs up there,
    Thank you for this film!
    Thank you!

    • Costa Botes says:

      Hi Rod, and many thanks for your considered viewpoint, especially as it is educated by experience. I have plenty of room in my heart for sentiment when it comes to dogs. I love them, and I do of course never want to see an animal suffering. I honestly did not see that in Brian’s dog yards. As you say, the dogs may look cold, but they’re not. They are as well adapted to that place as the bears. So I find it exasperating to repeatedly come across the sort of critical comments posted by Peta – they’re so ill informed, and trace back to either knee jerk remote assessments or worse, malicious and slanderous local gossip. It’s quite reprehensible really. I believe my film gives ample scope for viewers to make up their own minds about the validity of Brian Ladoon’s mission. By no means all people conclude that he’s on the right path. I’m not sure I do myself. But I don’t find him any less admirable. My interest is characters who are driven, obsessive, passionate; who don’t let go of the things they believe in. Brian’s story brings us face to face with some less pleasant aspects of nature, and of ourselves. I reflected much on the way we humans treat animals as chattels – when they lose their utility, we dump them. Considering the relationship that existed between men and sled dogs, thousands of years old, I came to feel there was, and is, a powerful sense of guilt and loss in the North over the treatment of these animals. It motivates a lot of passion, some positive, some not. Of course, there’s more to the story. Much more than I could access. I welcome informed debate.

      Regarding your question about how to get copies of the film, I am trying to take a bit of time to put this title up on my web store.

      But meantime, inquiries re DVD sales can be made to me directly at: lonepinefilms@gmail.com

      • john dingo says:

        I have huskies, and live in Brisbane Australia. I have also lived in outback qld/nt with them, the temp was above 40c and they had no problem with the heat any more then any other breed of canine. I put it down to their double coat, a great insulater against hot or cold. snow dogs are very well equipped for all soughts of weather. they are natural runners, and I need strong high fences to contain them. I was just wandering if brians dogs are wild or domesticated ? and what are the reasons/impacts why they cant roam free? any info you have would be appreciated. john dingo, Brisbane Australia.

      • john dingo says:

        I forgot to add that I know caleb told us in the film why the dogs are on chains. when I say roam free, I mean released into the wild.

      • Costa Botes says:

        I can only take your word for it John. But I can’t imagine animals bred for living and working in minus 50 conditions tolerating the heat of the outback. Anyone else got some informed view on this? As to why Inuit sled dogs aren’t permitted to run wild, my understanding is it’s because they are socialised to people, so they would hang around communities rather than going completely feral like wolves. But like wolves, they are strongly pack oriented. They will kill anything in their path that looks like food. So they would become a nuisance to people at best, and most likely a danger too. That’s why so many dogs were shot by the RCMP, after they were neglected and allowed to roam free by their former masters. The destructive decline of Inuit culture and their dogs was tragically linked.

        Also, a quick further reply – “are Brian’s dogs wild, or domesticated?”. They are somewhere in between. All pups are socialised to humans. They are very friendly to people. But in other respects, they are the most primitive, pack orientated dogs you can imagine. They live on their chains, but they are constantly surrounded by their pack mates (some of which are allowed to run free, acting as ‘sentinels’, and they will not abandon their fellows), and they are exposed to nature 24/7, so the degree of stimulation every dog gets is way more than any average domestic pooch (Backyard? A walk a day? That’s nothing compared to the excitement these fellows get in an average day).

        What we would all like to see is the dogs running and working, doing what they love and were bred to do. For that, Brian needs volunteers. He’s stuck in a very tough Catch 22 …

  99. Well done Brian. I had the privilege of working with Greenland Husky Dogs in Antarctica, at Mawson Australian Antarctic Base, & what you are doing is completely correct. These dogs just love people, love being outside (never inside), Unfortunately, a small Country with an even smaller base In Antarctica said that our Mawson Husky dogs were not indigenous to Antarctica & after a lot of Government interference, we had to get rid of our Mawson Dogs, however, they all went to good homes in the high country of USA and some other places where they fitted in very well indeed. The dogs just love to run and when we took them out on a ‘fan trace’, we could hardly keep up with them, they just loved it all. Keep up the good work. I have just seen the movie that was made by Lonepinefilms & it was terrific. It was shown on Australian TV just a few days ago. Well done. Peter Stickland Ex Antarctic Radio/Communications Officer, Perth, Western Australia.

    • Costa Botes says:

      Thanks very much Peter. I will pass this along to Brian.

      Australia’s treatment of its Antarctic dogs was exemplary compared to my own country. Much to the disgust and grief of their handlers, the decision was made by the New Zealand Government to “dispose” of all the dogs who had given their loyal service on the ice. A shameful outcome. Probably worth a movie in itself, but I couldn’t bear it.

      • john dingo says:

        just out of curiosity,what do you think the inpact would be to release dogs into the wild in antartica? and would they survive? I realize this isnt your line of expertize , but you have more experience then i do.

  100. Costa Botes says:

    The Antarctica treaty signed by all nations currently with an interest in the area expressly forbids introducing any kinds of exotic animal.

    If sled dogs were to be released in Antarctica, the probability is very high that they would perish.

    They can tolerate the cold. But there is nothing for them to eat year round. Penguins and seals are seasonal.

    In the North, the example of wolves gives a pretty good notion of where dogs would likely end up if they were wild. Wolves hang out far south of the Arctic circle, and tend to prefer being inside the tree line. All other things being equal, it’s unlikely dogs would compete successfully with wolves. Brian Ladoon has had times when wolves have attacked his dogs, coming in and killing several at a time, especially puppies. This has usually been caused by large fires further south, driving the wolves from their usual haunts.

    There is an erroneous theory that Inuit sled dogs were bred with wolves to create the dogs commonly known today as Eskimo Sled Dogs. DNA testing does not support this. The Sled Dogs of the Far North are man made – bred over many generations to be hard working, food efficient, and freakishly hardy in extreme cold. They are essentially domestic animals, by breeding, and by nature suited to be companions to humans.

  101. Karen says:

    And we thought we were braving the elements getting out to Winnipeg’s Cinematheque on a snowy night! What a beautiful film – I’m still feeling the effects of this visit to the real Churchill, and it was fascinating to see the relationships between the three species. (I knew polar bears are enormous, but watching this, I could truly feel their size and power.) My grandfather used his sled dogs in Manitoba’s Interlake to get around and to check his trap lines, and being from an urban family that was never without an over-indulged dog, I was appalled when told his dogs had been tied outside day and night, year-round; and what’s worse, they were just thrown frozen fish to eat in the winter! I heard the explanations: these dogs would be miserable indoors, and they were well-nourished and cared for, but there was always a part of me that didn’t buy it. I’m looking at it a bit differently now. I don’t like the chains or the lack of purpose for a breed wired for working, but it’s a complicated issue in Churchill. The world has too few obstinate characters like Brian Ladoon – as much as they irritate their neighbours and bureaucrats, they’re often the people who accomplish important things. I don’t know if there’s a “point,” as some ask, to what he’s doing, but how could it possibly be better if he didn’t help to conserve this amazing breed? Your film let him reveal himself quite naturally as an imperfect, charismatic, slightly goofball and genuinely dedicated person who also seems to be in his natural environment. Thank you for making this film, and thanks to Dave Barber for selecting it.

    • Costa Botes says:

      Thanks Karen. I appreciate you putting down these thoughts. Yes, it’s complicated, and vexing. Of course, our hearts go out to these dogs sitting in chains on bare land. That’s less of an issue for me than the fact that they aren’t running and working, but they are with their pack mates, and they’re not actually suffering. They are breeding animals. There to maintain viable blood lines. The point for Brian is really quite simple … as he put it to me quite consistently, if we let these dogs disappear, or if we allow them to lose their adaptive characteristics, then that’s it, they’re gone; “we can’t just pull them out of the ground like carrots later on”.

      But there is certainly scope for different approaches to breeding the dogs, and keep them tuned to the Arctic environment. As long as people love these dogs, ways will be found to keep them going.

  102. Mary Masucci says:

    Dear Sr. Botes,
    I would very much love to watch your movie, Last Dogs of Winter, however as a struggling American (who knew!) I am unable to afford US$35.00 to do so. Is there any way I might experience this wonderful film you’ve made without having to pay so much?

    Thank you, Sr. Botes: If I could afford to purchase your film I would do so without hesitation and then some. I wish I was completely liquid – I’d be on board with your organization in a heartbeat.

    With sincere thanks for what you are doing,
    Mary T. Masucci “Tracy”
    19928 Pinebrook Blvd.
    Bend, Oregon, USA, 97702
    541-678-5944
    tracy.masucci@gmail.coom

    • Costa Botes says:

      Hi there,

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      The cost is not US$35, it’s NZ$35, though I guess if you add the
      postage, you end up with roughly the same figure. I appreciate your
      circumstances might make this difficult to afford, but I have to
      explain that this is not a mass market item, I have no widespread
      distribution available, and thus no advantage of economies of scale.
      It’s just not economically viable for me to sell hard copies any
      cheaper.

      Which is why I have been looking seriously at online streaming as an
      option.

      Would you be interested in viewing the film via Vimeo On Demand for, say, 5.00? That would be for a single viewing, without any ‘extras’.

      I have not set this up yet as I have been assessing the costs of
      establishing such a service, compared to likely return. It seems to me
      it is probably worthwhile, but I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

      Best wishes,

      Costa Botes

      • Mary T. (Tracy) Masucci says:

        Yes, certainly, thanks so much, Costa! I’d be delighted to watch the movie on Vimeo – that is if I can stream it on the Ubuntu operating system (the only one I currently have).
        Many thanks again,
        Mary

      • Costa Botes says:

        The movie will be showing in a couple of cinemas in Vancouver soon. These shows were arranged via direct contact with theatres. Do you have a digital cinema where you are that shows documentaries, art movies etc? Such boutique or ‘arthouse’ theatres are more flexible and willing to look at non-Hollywood titles. If so, get hold of their contact details, and maybe it might be possible to arrange a show.

        Big screen is still the best way to see anything, full stop. Old fashioned of me, I know, but that doesn’t make it less true. Last Dogs of Winter is relatively easy to promote. People get the appeal of it, and I’ve had some wonderful feedback (see comments and reviews on the Last Dogs page on my website); but it has still proved impossible thus far to get any commercial distribution.

        As to Vimeo, well, I’m not too rich myself, in money or time, so I’m not quite ready yet to make the leap to online streaming. It takes a bit of cash to set up, and time required to organise and upload the necessary files. I’m a one man operation, so can’t do everything and I am pretty snowed under most of the time. But it’s definitely on my list of things to make happen soon. Watch this space.

      • Costa Botes says:

        My plans for getting the film onto Vimeo have had to be delayed, unfortunately, until world online rights revert to me later this year.

  103. Shel says:

    What a great documentary!!!! My husband and I watched it the other day after waiting so long to find it! We have now added Churchill into our places to go and would love to see Bryans dogs as our #1! I think its an amazing and beautiful that Bryan is living out his passion! As owners of 3 dogs, female malamute, female husky/malamute and our little guy a Canadian Eskimo, we understand the breeds and fully support not to mention appreciate Bryans dedication! I hope you do a follow up documentary, we could watch for hours!

  104. Hi Costa, I just saw the last half of The Last Dogs of Winter on SBS (Australia) and was in tears! I only happened upon it while changing channels during the ads of another show, but became transfixed and had to keep watching! (Must go back and see it from start to finish). Fascinating story with intriguing characters, beautiful footage of an epic landscape with gorgeous animals, and a haunting soundscape! Husky and malamute-like dogs are close to my heart, but I had no idea there was another breed called Canadian Eskimo Dogs until now. For someone who lives in warm, subtropical city, the landscape of this documentary seemed otherworldly. Also, I badly wanted to run my hands through those dogs’ coats! Great work!

    • Costa Botes says:

      Hi Wendy,

      thanks for your feedback. I appreciate you making the effort to write. FYI, SBS have been showing a truncated ‘TV’ version of the film. The full feature is available on DVD from me at http://www.costabotes.co.nz. I guess you like Northern dogs! Canadian Eskimo Dog is the official Canadian Kennel Club name for this breed. It’s a controversial name. Inuit prefer “Inuit Sled Dog”. Whatever the name, it is the original indigenous dog of the arctic, bred and trained over thousands of years by Inuit. These dogs are as superbly adapted for the freezing climate as are polar bears. Yes, they have lovely coats. In the winter they get really thick, with shaggy, coarse outer layer, and softer, insulating layer closer to the skin. It certainly is a different realm to anything we are used to in this part of the world. Although I have to say it’s pretty damned cold here in Wellington right now! Music for the film was composed by Tom McLeod, who I think perfectly captures the bittersweet sense of lament for a disappearing world that this topic inspired in me.

  105. Hi Costa, thanks for your response! I didn’t realise the SBS version was shorter; thanks for letting me know. Were you a dog lover before making the documentary, or did you fall in love with them as a result of filmmaking?

    I’m rekindling a forgotten love of Northern dogs, so that’s probably one of the reasons why the documentary made me cry! My childhood pet was half Alaskan Malamute/half Border Collie, and because of her I developed a soft spot for huskies, malamutes, etc. (I have *some* idea of the amount of fur they can shed!). I was saddened when she died in 2000 so I buried that fascination, but lately I’m remembering how much I used to love them. It’s rare to see any kind of purebred Northern dog in here in Brisbane – occasionally you’ll see someone walking a husky, but the climate’s too hot.

    I’ve never been to Wellington, but NZ in general looks like a cold place! Obviously Churchill is in a whole different category – those blizzard scenes were amazing! There was an earlier shot in the film with a pink gradient sky and the moon which was just beautiful. There’s something really grounding and peaceful about seeing that landscape – it makes the rest of the world seem frivolous.

    The documentary’s had me thinking uncomfortably – is it worth keeping a species alive if the reason for which that species was bred no longer exists, and if the remaining members can’t live to their potential? Even if they’re super-cute?

    I liked the characters of Caleb and Brian (who reminds me of someone I know, in personality and appearance). The music sat perfectly – parts of it sounded like the Icelandic band Amiina. Was the music ever released separately?

    I bet everyone comments on the scenes of Polar Bears interacting with the dogs – astounding! The final shot of the dog raising its head and looking nobly into the distance was also lovely!

    Okay, I’ll shut up now :)
    All the best
    Wendy

  106. Costa Botes says:

    I didn’t realise the SBS version was shorter;

    Yes, version shown on SBS is 52 minutes.
    The full feature is 97 minutes long.

    Were you a dog lover before making the documentary, or did you fall in love with them as a result of filmmaking?

    I have always liked dogs. I’m naturally inclined more to pesky, tenacious breeds like terriers – especially West Highland and Cairn terriers.

    I’m rekindling a forgotten love of Northern dogs.

    I did rather fall in love with them. At first I thought they’d be scary and aggressive, but nothing could have been further from the truth.

    It’s rare to see any kind of purebred Northern dog in here in Brisbane – occasionally you’ll see someone walking a husky, but the climate’s too hot.

    Way, way too hot for that kind of animal in Australia. It’d be cruel.

    I’ve never been to Wellington, but NZ in general looks like a cold place!

    By comparison with Australia? Yes. But depends what “too hot” is relative to “too cold”. I feel like I’m dying every time I visit Australia. And I don;t like the cold. So I reckon we’re just right here. Ha ha.

    Obviously Churchill is in a whole different category – those blizzard scenes were amazing! There was an earlier shot in the film with a pink gradient sky and the moon which was just beautiful. There’s something really grounding and peaceful about seeing that landscape – it makes the rest of the world seem frivolous.

    Yes. The light is beautiful there. The sun does different things in the far north. Sunsets last for hours.

    The documentary’s had me thinking uncomfortably – is it worth keeping a species alive if the reason for which that species was bred no longer exists, and if the remaining members can’t live to their potential? Even if they’re super-cute?

    That’s a tension or conflict which I tried hard to suggest. I have no easy answer, but the question never left my head. The dogs are DEFINED by their roles. take away the role, the dog essentially disappears. And fast. The breed characteristics can be gone in only a couple of generations. Not human generations, dog generations. We know that CEDs bred in warmer countries develop different coats. They adapt to suit their environment.

    The music sat perfectly – parts of it sounded like the Icelandic band Amiina. Was the music ever released separately?

    No. It was composed especially for the film by Tom McLeod. There isn’t really enough of a market to release a CD, but I hope Tom can make it available via his web site.

    I bet everyone comments on the scenes of Polar Bears interacting with the dogs – astounding!

    Yes, it is extraordinary. But rare. I have played down this angle, which probably wasn’t so smart from a commercial point of view, but I did not want to project any kind of cutesy, Disneyish impression.

    The final shot of the dog raising its head and looking nobly into the distance was also lovely!

    That’s One of Six, the dog referred to by Brian as the sole survivor of a litter of six puppies mauled by wolves. She is one of his sentinel dogs, allowed to run loose. She won’t run away because of her loyalty to the pack.

    Thanks again for your interest Wendy. Tell your friends. The full feature is available on DVD from my online store. All best.

    • Hi Costa, this is getting long so I’ve responded in between with dashes!

      “Yes, version shown on SBS is 52 minutes. The full feature is 97 minutes long.”
      —That explains why I had some unanswered questions! I’ll check out the DVD.

      “I have always liked dogs. I’m naturally inclined more to pesky, tenacious breeds like terriers – especially West Highland and Cairn terriers.”
      —They’re lovely. But it’s usually the smaller dogs that startle me the most when going for a walk. The bark on some of those dogs is alarming! I love how sled dogs howl.

      “I did rather fall in love with them. At first I thought they’d be scary and aggressive, but nothing could have been further from the truth.”
      —They seem like they’d be a lot safer to be around than say, a pitbull or a German Shepherd. Brian’s dogs have probably only had good experiences with humans, so I’m guessing they’d be protective more than anything else! (Although, I wouldn’t want to come between two males fighting!).

      “Way, way too hot for that kind of animal in Australia. It’d be cruel.”
      —Absolutely, especially as they need to be kept active. And any kind of dog like that takes a huge commitment. I remember reading an article recently that people in the US were increasingly buying wolf-like dogs since the popularity of Twilight, Game of Thrones etc…and also discarding them, because they weren’t prepared for the amount of effort they take. I’ve settled for a soft toy dog souvenir that a friend brought back from Canada :)

      “By comparison with Australia? Yes. But depends what “too hot” is relative to “too cold”. I feel like I’m dying every time I visit Australia. And I don;t like the cold. So I reckon we’re just right here. Ha ha.”
      —Ha ha! NZ looks cold…compared to Brisbane, which had a maximum of 25 degrees today, in the middle of Winter! The days here have been beautiful, bright and sunny. (Whereas I see Wellington had a maximum of 14 degrees today!). Not sure where in Australia you’ve traveled – I’m guessing Sydney or Melbourne, which both feel cold to me. I must get over to NZ one day. I’ve been all the way to Norway, but not NZ! Glad that you’re happy with Wellington temperatures!

      “Yes. The light is beautiful there. The sun does different things in the far north. Sunsets last for hours.”
      –That must take the pressure off shooting. Sunsets here last for 10 minutes, it seems!

      “That’s a tension or conflict which I tried hard to suggest. I have no easy answer, but the question never left my head. The dogs are DEFINED by their roles. take away the role, the dog essentially disappears. And fast. The breed characteristics can be gone in only a couple of generations. Not human generations, dog generations. We know that CEDs bred in warmer countries develop different coats. They adapt to suit their environment.”
      —Wow. It’s makes for a good conflict in a documentary, but a tough question in real life. I have been discussing this with my friends! It would be a tremendous shame to lose these beautiful animals.

      “No. It was composed especially for the film by Tom McLeod. There isn’t really enough of a market to release a CD, but I hope Tom can make it available via his web site.”
      —Sure. I might email him, at least to tell him I liked the score.

      “Yes, it is extraordinary. But rare. I have played down this angle, which probably wasn’t so smart from a commercial point of view, but I did not want to project any kind of cutesy, Disneyish impression.”
      —The documentary still made it clear that it’s a hazardous situation. (I had to laugh when Caleb tells the tourists to ‘Hurry up’ when the Polar Bear was approaching). Apart from the dog/bear hugs, it was amazing to see the Polar Bears wander around as you were filming from the back of a vehicle. Stylistically, I liked that it wasn’t overdramatised, preachy or artificial, but still maintained personality, warmth and a sense of humour at times.

      You couldn’t have made those puppies any cuter though…but did you have pressure from stakeholders to “cutesify” it?

      “That’s One of Six, the dog referred to by Brian as the sole survivor of a litter of six puppies mauled by wolves. She is one of his sentinel dogs, allowed to run loose. She won’t run away because of her loyalty to the pack.”
      —Ah, I was wondering why some dogs were allowed to run loose. So sad they were attacked by wolves.

      “Thanks again for your interest Wendy. Tell your friends. The full feature is available on DVD from my online store. All best.”
      —I’ve been telling everyone, and sharing on social media. I’m only sorry to have seen it after it did the festival rounds. Thanks for writing back!

  107. MaryAnn Fox says:

    HELLO
    COULD YOU PLEASE LET ME KNOW HOW I CAN GET AHOLD OF BRIAN. I WOULD LOVE TO TALK FUTURE WITH HIM…DOG BREEDING ….BEARS…..COMING TO SEE IT AND ACTUALLY BEING EMBRACED BY NATURE AT ITS MOST GENTLE MOMENTS.
    THANK YOU. THIS IS JUST TO AMAZING NOT TO SEE AND NOT TO HELP OUT.

    • Costa Botes says:

      Hi Mary Ann, I think you would find Churchill an eye opening experience. Go prepared. Read as much as you can about the place. Nature up there … Well, there’s plenty of it, but one thing it’s not is gentle. And nobody would accuse Brian of being gentle either. He’s a man with a mission, constantly on the edge. I don’t think you’ll get far with him discussing anything in romantic or airy fairy terms. He’s a pragmatist, and his daily struggle is finding enough money to feed his dogs. Brian doesn’t do email, and has no personal phone. He ought to be contactable via the Arctic Trading Company Store in Churchill. Sorry don’t have number handy, but you’ll be able to google it. Best time to call would be mid to late afternoon Churchill time. Good luck.

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