The third Sundance 2014 US Documentary Competition title of today: Todd Miller’s DINOSAUR 13, about the strange aftermath of a singular paleontological find.
Sundance Program Description:
On August 12, 1990, in the badlands of South Dakota, paleontologist Peter Larson and his team from the Black Hills Institute unearthed the largest, most complete Tyrannosaurus rex ever found. It was the find of a lifetime—the world’s greatest dinosaur discovery. They named their dinosaur Sue.
Two years later, when the FBI and the National Guard showed up, battle lines were drawn over ownership of Sue. The U.S. government, world-class museums, Native American tribes, and competing paleontologists became the Goliath to Larson’s David as he and his team fought to keep their dinosaur and wrestled with intimidation tactics that threatened their freedom as well.
DINOSAUR 13 chronicles an unprecedented saga in American history and details the fierce battle to possess a 65-million-year-old treasure. With consummate skill, filmmaker Todd Miller excavates layer after layer, exposing human emotion in a dramatic tale that is as complex as it is fascinating.
This marks Brooklyn-based Miller’s second documentary after 2001’s GAHANNA BILL, about a developmentally disabled smalltown Ohio man, and third feature project after the 2008 drama SCARING THE FISH.
Why You Should Watch:
The project’s slotting as one of the four Day One competition screenings has already signaled it as one to watch. Granted access to a treasure trove of contemporary 1990s footage of the excavation and later handling of Sue’s remains, as well as what followed, Miller skillfully draws the audience into the experiences of Larson and his team, both high and low. The less a viewer knows about the saga of Sue and the Black Hills Institute before watching the film, however, the better s/he will appreciate the euphoric sense of wonder in her discovery, what it means for the local community, and the unusual, and at times unbelievable, twists and turns taken before her ultimate fate is decided.
The doc’s website is currently in progress. For more information, watch Miller’s Meet the Artist Sundance video profile and check out his Indiewire filmmaker interview. For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph.
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