The Last Dogs of Winter
Director Costa Botes
Producer Costa Botes, Caleb Ross
With Brian Ladoon, Caleb Ross, Dave Daley, Mike Macri, Penny Rawlings
Escape the heat and celebrate the start of the Chinese Year of the Dog with this gorgeously rendered documentary about one man’s mission to preserve and breed an endangered species, the Qimmiq, Canada’s indigenous Eskimo dog.
"The Last Dogs of Winter from Kiwi Costa Botes intelligently surveys [Brian] Ladoon’s quixotic mission, the numerous obstacles he faces, and the uneasy co-existence of man, animal and nature in the small town of Churchill (pop. 873).
A wilderness lover’s delight… One of only three surviving dog breeds indigenous to Canada, the Eskimo dogs were once essential to the native Inuit’s nomadic life in Canada’s north, but the population of these powerful, majestic looking animals dwindled to less than 100 by 1970, due to disease, government mandated slaughter, and the availability of motorized snow mobiles. A beloved local Bishop who predicted their genetic material would one day be as precious as jewels sparked Ladoon’s interest in the breed…
Botes comes to Ladoon’s story through fellow New Zealander (and producer) Caleb Ross, a former Kiwi actor. As a twenty-something, the adventuresome Ross travelled to Canada for love, but, as he notes, the affair went south, and he went north, enticed by a job posting that read, “Come to Churchill, breed Eskimo dogs, see polar bears.” (Churchill is known as one of the world’s top spots for viewing the migrating bears.)
Filming with a lightweight HD camera and only his wife as crew (a job that required her to drive a pickup truck down vast stretches of icy road and carry a gun with rubber bullets to be prepared for rogue polar bears), Botes intercuts artfully shot interviews with spectacular outdoor scenes. Among the most captivating are those of the chained dogs interacting with the curious bears, and the lumbering white bears gamboling with one another in the snow.”
— Alissa Simon, Variety, 10 September 2011