Shooting Bigfoot“When you’re chosen – you’re chosen.”

There are people in the world doing special things – things that will make lives better, and have a lasting impact. They make heavy sacrifices, but come back with concrete results. There are also people who think they are doing special things – people essentially building forts out of cardboard boxes, while telling anyone who will listen that they are designing “the home of tomorrow.”

SHOOTING BIGFOOT is about the latter.

As a young man, director Morgan Matthews had a particular fascination with Bigfoot. As he grew up, his fascination dwindled, the way many childhood fascinations dwindle. However, when he looked around, he noticed that so many in the world continued to be fascinated – even obsessed – with the creature and being able to prove its existence. In a quest for answers, and a callback to his youth, Matthews went to middle America in an effort to connect with some of the most renowned Bigfoot trackers. This film is the journal of three expeditions.

The first trip into the bush is led by Dallas and Wayne. The men are very welcoming to Matthews and anxious to conclusively prove Bigfoot’s existence. Proof seems to be a difficult thing for these two “experts” to produce, but that doesn’t stop them from proudly displaying photo after photo of blurry branches supposedly showing the beast in all its glory. The second trip involves Tom Biscardi, who comes with a higher profile as a “Bigfoot expert”.

Biscardi talks a much better game than Dallas and Wayne, and seemingly has both a better team and cooler toys. However, what this film underlines is the way in with Biscardi has built his own myth. He has propped himself up with published materials and videos that are carefully crafted and edited to stoke the myth (both the beast’s and his own). As we watch the action unfold though, it becomes clear just how much is manufactured. Matthews never openly questions it, but it’s clear to see that there is very little methodology in Biscardi’s research, and even less respect for his teammates.

It’s Matthew’s third expedition that makes this film a must-watch.

Matthews rallies up with “Master Tracker” Rick Dyer. Rick has got word of a sighting deep in the woods, in an area inhabited by several homeless people. Matthews and Dyer wander into the bush, and set up camp with the hopes of running into the beast. At first Dyer’s methodology seems to be the most sound – quietly become one with nature, and wait for nature to come to you. However, like the other “experts” before him, Dyer’s character begins to come into question and take over the experience. Not only does one begin to question the veracity of the situation, but the safety of all involved suddenly becomes a great unknown.

To put a finer point on it, the fact that nobody got killed in the making of this film is a miracle.

There are moments within SHOOTING BIGFOOT that have to be seen to be believed, and for the most part Matthews wisely avoids judgement. What the film does is allow the viewers to see the whole truth for themselves, and to make decisions about the truth-tellers. Were one to look at the findings of these men, one might be apt to believe that they are on to something. What SHOOTING BIGFOOT allows us to do is spend time with the people behind the findings, and see them for the kooks, cons and crazies they really are. This is one wild film, a truly great watch, and one of the best documentaries of the festival for certain.

Bigfoot might still be out there. The beast likely still inspires believers and will continue to until its existence is conclusively proven or disproven. Matthews doesn’t purport to have any clear answers, and neither do I. One thing is for sure though – the four men profiled in this film sure don’t have any answers either.

SHOOTING BIGFOOT plays Hot Docs 2013 tonight, Tuesday April 30 – 8:30pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox. It plays again at midnight on Wednesday May 1st, and again on Friday May 3rd at 9:30pm.