Sunday, May 9

‘Now I’m very afraid of the forest’: behind the search for Sasquatch | Documentary film

TOAudiences who pressed play on Joshua Rofé’s new documentary miniseries Sasquatch with the expectation that someone will finally get some direct answers about that elusive hirsute bastard will be deeply disappointed. “I was not obsessed with whether I believe in Bigfoot or whether I buy the details of this story. All of that became secondary and fell by the wayside, “Rofé tells The Guardian through Zoom. “I was struck by the visceral fear present in all these encounters stories. I was surprised at how scared these people were, it was totally authentic. “

His three-part project takes the myth of the shy giant supposedly hiding in the wilderness of the West Coast as a starting point, leaving the cryptozoological behind to pursue something more tangible and knowable. What begins as an inspection of Bigfoot as a sociological phenomenon leads Rofé and his partner in real crime, journalist David Holthouse, to a triple homicide in 1993 that locals say is the work of the infamous monkey creature. But there is a much darker truth buried deep within the legend, which instead belongs to a mammal capable of greater violence than any other in the animal kingdom. “Some monsters are real,” warns the production slogan; naturally, it refers to homo sapiens.

In February 2018, Rofé was finishing a series about Lorena Bobbitt when she began to crave a new challenge. While researching the notorious castrator, he was amazed at the amount of footage and other supplemental materials that were available to any average citizen who wanted to make the right requests to the right people. He wanted to blaze his own path, blaze a new path, put shoe leather on the pavement, whatever metaphor he prefers. “I got to thinking, ‘Wow, what if the next thing is to do something you can’t Google?’” Says Rofé. “I wanted something about which there was no publicly available information.”

His friend and producer Zach Cregger recommended the Sasquatch Chronicles podcast, a collection of interviews with people who tell stories about their encounters. “Right away, I had no interest,” laughs Rofé. “I’m not a big monster movie person, I don’t like creature characteristics. He told me to only try one episode, and four days later, I listened to eleven of them. ”He was moved by the intensity and vulnerability of the contributors, and he realized that even if the ten-foot weirdness everyone claimed to have glimpsed might not being real, his potency in the collective imagination definitely was.This spark of inspiration led him to search for an angle, event or incident that spoke to the distinctive spirit of the Sasquatch country.

“If you were me and you came up with the crazy tone of ‘The Sasquatch Murder Mystery,’ there is one person to contact, and that’s David Holthouse,” explains Rofé. “He has experience as a gonzo journalist, investigative processes, everything. When I contacted him, I thought this might be a bridge too far into the strange department, so I said, ‘Hey man, this is going to be a strange text, but I’m investigating crimes related to the Sasquatch myth. thinking that I might want to stick with that as the next project. ‘ He immediately responded, ‘I love it. I have one. I’ll call you in five. ‘

Nearly 30 years ago, in the northern California patch known as the Emerald Triangle for growing much of American marijuana, three men who worked in the industry were savagely murdered. However, the details were confusing, as they were not the quick and efficient results of a rival operation. Nothing of the crop was stolen or destroyed, apart from the stalks crushed when the men were torn limb by limb. As is the human tendency, the residents of Mendocino County told themselves a great story to make sense of the tragic and inexplicable, and a rumor that Sasquatch could be the culprit that took shape. Dispelling it led Rofé and Holthouse to an underworld that was “much more difficult to penetrate,” populated by both affable eccentrics and dazzling, humorless people with a capacity for violence.

Photography: Hulu

“There were some occasions when people made it clear to us that they didn’t want us to film when we were filming,” recalls Rofé. “There was a time when David was going to meet someone on his own, a new source, and he went from a meeting in broad daylight in a public place to a meeting around midnight in a private place after some changes. . When he got there, there were eight other people he didn’t know were going to be present. That was a tense night. They wanted to take him three hours away in the middle of the night to yet another location to speak to someone who had crucial information. All that night, whenever David could sneak out, he would text me updates, just to have a record of where he was and what was happening. I didn’t know which way it would turn out. We had some nights like that where we didn’t know if he would leave where he had gone. “

Things took on the feel of a “paranoid thriller meets graphic novel” as Holthouse progressed further and further into an island subculture of makers and growers like the captivating Ghostdance. (“If your patch, that is, your farm, your livelihood, has fungus or mold, is not growing well, you bring Ghostdance for a few weeks and he will save you the whole season,” says Rofé). The guides lead us to realize that the whole Bigfoot fuss was something between misunderstanding and misdirection, less to do with the beast and more to do with the ever-changing dynamics of the gradually industrializing region. The fact that the three murdered men were Mexican workers is crucial to understanding what is really going on, entangled as it is in the tensions between Latino immigrants and white farmers. “All of these things, the racism, the trauma to the earth, the multiple unsolved homicides, each one was a door to open,” he says. “Everything informs the story, because they are all interconnected.”

Photography: Hulu

The miniseries comes to Hulu on the stoner vacation of April 20, although Rofé wouldn’t recommend it as entertainment for watery eyes. “If you get paranoid when you get high, you probably don’t want to be high while watching this,” he says. “It can be scary, in the way it takes over you. You can make it scarier for yourself, turn it all into 3D. ”Far from the eccentric exploration of what the title suggests or the cartoonish flair of the animated segments, the series intensively analyzes important issues with unusually high stakes for a cold case.

To get to the bottom of what happened that gloomy night, Rofé assembles a profile of a rapidly changing area alongside the increasingly legal marijuana business. “Some of the things that came up were so shocking, but once the shock wears off, everything becomes logical and inevitable,” he says. “Ghostdance speaks very frankly in the third episode about where corporatization is leading the industry. It does the same as any free-spirited ship and wrecks it. “

This whole process imbued Rofé, an inner child raised in New York and Jersey, with a new respect. And not just because of an industry far removed from the hippie image it once had, or because of the defiant men and women struggling with the pain left behind, but because of nature itself. “I didn’t even grow up going camping,” he says. “This was all new to me, and what stuck with me was how massive the forest really is. If you’re out there long enough, you go far enough into that forest that you can’t hear the cars anymore, you wouldn’t be surprised to see a brontosaurus pass by. Anything could be hidden there. It’s prehistoric and that’s a powerful thing. “

Bigfoot doesn’t need to be real, ultimately. Not knowing is scary enough. “In a way that I was not before embarking on this strange adventure, I am now very afraid of the forest,” he says.

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