|CALL IT THE Hoop Dreams of Bigfoot movies. Though it just missed an Oscar nomination, Sasquatch Odyssey, a one-hour documentary about rival hominid hunters, has already left a large, shaggy mark on the film fest circuit. On October 28, Canadian director Peter von Puttkamer's movie will screen nationwide on The Learning Channel.
Sasquatch Odyssey, which played the prestigious International Documentary Association's festival and the New York International Independent Film Festival, follows Peter Byrne, Rene Dahinden, John Green, and Grover Krantz—"the four horsemen of Sasquatchery"—who have dedicated their lives to searching for the mythical apelike giant of British Columbia and the Northwest.
"They are eccentric, but not crazy, and they are moving on in the face of a lot of crazies," says von Puttkamer of the four. "They keep running into people who want to tie Bigfoot in to space aliens." In one sequence, Jack Lapseritis, author of The Psychic Sasquatch, sends Dahinden into conniptions with his description of an encounter with "paraphysical interdimensional nature people." Fumes Dahinden: "I'm not interested in Sasquatch in his goddamn mind—I want Sasquatch in the bush!"
Though the documentary includes footage from several Sasquatch expeditions, including the now legendary "Patterson film" (lensed in Northern California in 1967, it depicts what many believe to be a female Sasquatch cavorting in the wild), the real story concerns four obsessed, sometimes grumpy, old men. "It isn't necessarily about Sasquatches," says Betsey McLane, director emeritus of the International Documentary Association, who last year picked the film as a Doctober fest selection, a prerequisite for an Oscar nomination. "It is about the people—everyone can identify with these guys."
Von Puttkamer—who's now at work on Monster Hunters, two new cryptozoologic-themed pilots also headed for The Learning Channel—took 18 months to produce Sasquatch Odyssey. He began the project as a serious study of "wildmen" myths, and although the end result is more arch than anthropological, there's still a message. "We need monsters; we need to know that we have enough forest out there that there is the possibility of Bigfoot," says von Puttkamer, now a believer himself. "If we cut down the forests we are not only cutting down the natural world, we are destroying our dreams."