Trailer for Iditarod-critical movie now on YouTube
A rumored take-down documentary on the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race hasn’t hit the big screen yet, but the trailer is out and the Alaska mushing community is in a near panic.
“This horrible anti-sled dog film is going to be screened at film festivals around Canada. It is pure propaganda, NOT a documentary,” musher Lisbet Norris posted on her Faceback page Tuesday.
Parts of the movie were shot during the Iditarod in Alaska last year by Canadian film maker Fern Levitt. She had $400,000 in hand from the Canadian Media Fund, an entity backed by the Canadian government, to shoot a sled-dog documentary.
The Iditarod provided her some assistance thinking the movie was to be what most have been: extended promos for Alaska’s Last Great Race.
And the trailer for “Sled Dogs” opens with pretty, aerial footage of the Iditarod 44 restart in and around Willow with a musher talking about the uniqueness of the race: “There’s more people that (sic) have climbed Mount Everest than that have finished the Iditarod.”
But it doesn’t take long before things get grittier:
“It’s kind of like somebody running a marathon, and now somebody asks you to run 10 in a row. That’s what these guys are doing”….There’s a price for it.”
It just gets worse for the mushing community from there as the movie shifts to Snowmass, Colo., where one-time Iditarod musher Dan MacEachen was charged with animal cruelty in 2013 after a raid on his kennel.
There are accusations that young dogs are killed if they lack competitive potential, and old ones put down when they are no longer of use to mushers. There is video of stressed dogs on short chains in muddy dog lots. There is rough video of dead dogs found in a shipping trailer in Willow.
The tagline beneath the YouTube video makes no bones about what the documentary is about:
“Directed by: Fern Levitt
“A provoking expose of the cruelty to dogs that permeates the commercial sled dog industry that supply (sic) sled dogs for such famous races as the Iditarod in Alaska. The film addresses the sled dog cull that occurred in Whistler and the attempts by locals to run an ethical sled dog business in its stead.”
The 82-minute-long movie is on the schedule for the Whistler Film Festival. It is slated to air Dec. 3 at the Maury Young Arts Centre and Dec. 4 at the Village 8 Cinema in the ski-resort community in British Columbia, Canada.
Norris wrote that the movie has a companion website – http://sleddogsfilm.com/get-involved/# – that contains a list of “almost every operating dog sled tour kennel in Alaska…(and) calls for boycotting the industry and the Iditarod.”
The link was not working Tuesday evening. It said the site was under maintenance but would soon launch.
The movie is certain to cause problems for the Iditarod which everyone agrees has some dirt in its closet. Not all mushers are the best of people.
As Norris, a kind and responsible young musher, observes in a comment on her own page:
” I want to repost some comments Susan Rogan made on the Musher Tip Worldwide Page as I strongly agree with them…..’For starters, anyone who keeps their dogs on 4 foot chains and houses them in plastic barrels in a mud pit needs to clean up their act. I would not want my identity as a dog musher associated with people like that and I don’t know why anyone would want to protect or defend that kind of treatment of animals. That said, to say that there should be no sled dogs anymore seems to be throwing out the precious baby with the dirty bath water. As too often happens, she has gone off her nut and is splatter bombing everyone with the ugly behaviour (sic) of people who I would also call borderline or straight up dog abusers.
“That woman owns a horse. I could take pictures of horses that are badly treated, and I could go into details of some horse racers and say, “They all suck! Look what happened to this horse! Don’t ever go on a horse tour again, horse stalls should be illegal, and there should never again be any horse events!” So every person who loves their horses and treats them well, and who participates in races or events gets called an animal abuser? How would she like that?!
“…People who offer tours with their sled dogs should abide by and encourage high standards, then don’t sweat it, and let the chips fall where they may. Have nothing to hide, nothing to be ashamed of. Same goes for racing kennels. Proper dog care, good conditions, love and affection and an opportunity for the dogs to just be dogs (not just sports equipment or business capital).”