The Snow Guardian – Documentary Review

The Snow Guardian



This is a really great documentary about a man who has done good work, alone, for over 40 years.

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Today’s film is the 2016 short documentary of billy barr(lowercase intended) called The Snow Guardian directed and narrated by Morgan Heim.

The Snow Guardian tells of the interesting life of billy barr, a Colorado resident who for the past forty years has lived alone in the ghost town of Gothic Colorado. In that time billy has learned to survive in the harsh mountain area through his own wits and despite his advanced years continues to ski two the nearest town twice a month for supplies and even though he has no running water or power or any of the creature comforts we take for granted everyday at the small shack that he had help build decades ago he has managed to find a most alarming fact

For years billy has kept a detailed record of the average snow fall each year for no other reason than his own personal entertainment. This changed however when a group of scientists from the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab discovered his unique calculations and used his finding to show the effects of global warming and climate change in this remote area. Through careful study both billy and the scientists have concluded that the average snowfall over the past forty years has lessened to the point where the melt waters from the snow caps are nearly drying up due to the record heat waves and the inclement dust in the dried out area. The truly worrying part of this of course is the fact that these melt waters are the main water supply for almost the entire South West and if they do evaporate then the subsequent drought will have a catastrophic effect on the inhabitants for the area.

Documentaries are one of the hardest film genre to critique. Each and every one of them are only entertaining if you are interested in the subject matter of the film. Anyone can pick up a action film and get at least some enjoyment out of it even if it is just to laugh at how bad they can be, documentaries however require a deeper commitment not only from the viewer but from the director and the subject of the documentary it’s self. The Snow Guardian delivers on that difficult premise. Not only is the life of this charismatic Bollywood loving hermit fascinating but his accidental discovery of the snow fall over the past half century may lead to better energy conservation and more regulations on Greenhouse emissions if the government takes heed.

The production value of The Snow Guardian is actually very high end, which is unsurprising giving the fact that it is done by Day’s Edge Productions. Each member of the company is either a PH.D scientist or a award winning filmmaker who’s combined efforts produce some of the best documentaries on science, the world, nature and fascinating people who live their lives within the unique boundaries of fringe society. The cinematography of the film is breath taking. With wide sweeping shots of the massive snow pack to the deeply intimate look into the home of billy barr as he works his makeshift weather equipment each scene is delivered in an powerful way and is crystal clear at all times. The cameras are steady and always focused to bring whatever the narrator is highlighting straight to the viewer. I don’t know how many times I have watched a documentary that fails on this one simple yet vital requirement thus ruining the entire concept, The Snow Guardian handles this perfectly. This is a good thing as that leads to the one black mark on the film that I found.

If I had one complaint about the film it would have to be in the audio department. The music while quite nice simply over shadows the voice of billy barr in places it makes it nearly impossible to hear him even with high fidelity headphones. This is truly a shame as not only does billy offer up many sage like words of wisdom but his scientific finds are the true highlight of the film, thankfully however the narrator is dubbed over the music and helps clear up the points billy was making. It is the one black mark on a otherwise interesting documentary and one that the skilled production company should have caught in post production. That being said however the music is very stirring and adds a sense of majestic wonder to the beautiful shots of this snow covered mountain area.

The Snow Guardian is a deeply insightful look into the history of global warming that is told not by a scientist but a regular citizen without any political ties to taint his view. Weather you are a believer in the impact of the human race on the environment or a staunch denier of the evidence you will very likely enjoy this brief five minute short film. If nothing else seeing the way billy leads his life will inspire with the positive attitude this old hermit manages to bring to a deeply cynical world. If you are looking to make your own documentary I would highly recommend that you take a close look at The Snow Guardian as it manages to shine in nearly every aspect of a very well produced and successful documentary. If you are interested in other non-fiction works by this very skilled production company I encourage you to go to their website and look over the other absolutely free works in their library.

Check out Morgan’s website for more videos, documentaries, and amazing photography.

About Kevin Kincaid

Kevin is a bored certified film critic. (Yes, bored is correct. He's tired of Hollywood too)

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