Happy People: A Year in the Taiga (2013)



Critic Consensus: Filled with breathtaking images of the foreboding Siberian countryside, Happy People: A Year in the Taiga is a fascinating look at an isolated society.

Movie Info

With HAPPY PEOPLE: A YEAR IN THE TAIGA, Werner Herzog and Russian co-director Dmitry Vasyukov takes viewers on yet another unforgettable journey into remote and extreme natural landscapes. The acclaimed filmmaker presents this visually stunning documentary about indigenous people living in the heart of the Siberian Taiga. Deep in the wilderness, far away from civilization, 300 people inhabit the small village of Bakhtia at the river Yenisei. There are only two ways to reach this outpost: by … More

Rating: Unrated
Genre: Documentary, Art House & International, Special Interest
Directed By: ,
Written By: Rudolph Herzog, Werner Herzog
In Theaters:
On DVD: Apr 23, 2013
Box Office: $0.3M
Music Box Films - Official Site


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Critic Reviews for Happy People: A Year in the Taiga

All Critics (46) | Top Critics (22)

"Happy People" seems to strain toward the notion that harsh nature makes for a pure heart. And perhaps it does for some. But all?

Full Review… | March 15, 2013
Detroit News
Top Critic

Titling a documentary about snowbound Siberian fur trappers "Happy People" is not as ironic as it seems.

Full Review… | March 7, 2013
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic

Herzog's longing for the ideological purity in which these lives are lived, free of paperwork and bureaucracy, taxes and technology, drives the film, which lacks an overall story arc.

Full Review… | February 28, 2013
Arizona Republic
Top Critic

It's a do-it-yourself world that Herzog clearly admires - much of what we see is the men performing the tasks that enable them to survive.

Full Review… | February 22, 2013
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

They decidedly don't seem happy. And "Happy People's" decision to skate down the frozen Yenisei without examining their unhappiness more closely leaves a slight chill.

Full Review… | February 22, 2013
Washington Post
Top Critic

If you want a taste of life as it must have been for the Voyageurs of old, this documentary is a good place to start.

Full Review… | February 15, 2013
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Happy People: A Year in the Taiga


Happy People: A Year in the Taiga is another amazing documentary from Werner Herzog. He always chooses very human stories and Happy People is no different. This is about as pure human as you can get anymore. We see people living in the Siberian Taiga, who have no running water, no electricity, no stores, no cars, nothing, but what they make and what they kill. They live off the land. Along the way we meet trappers, boat makers, fishermen, hunters, and a WWII hero. Most aren't given a lot of screen time, as we mostly follow one trapper. I like that we're given a lot of time with one person because it allows us to see someone in every aspect of their life in the Taiga, but also because the trapper who has all the screen time is extremely interesting.

Happy People is a film that everyone should watch. It's about people who are truly free, which is a theme nailed home by Herzog's narration many times. The people of the Taiga aren't confined to the types of lives we lead. There's no law, there's no telephones, no computers; nothing but the people themselves and what they create. This is one of those movies that just makes you want to get out of the consumerist, wasteful society we live in. 

Melvin White

Super Reviewer

I never thought I'd say this, but while watching this film I actually missed Werner Herzog's usual grand pretentiousness. "Happy People" is a very interesting look at a culture so distant from (but in some ways shockingly similar to) our own, but a lot of life in the Taiga is slow, uneventful business, and that is definitely reflected in the film. It may be worth seeing if you want a peek into a different way of life, but unlike Herzog's previous films, it doesn't explore the underlying human themes nearly as much as it could have(or in my opinion should have).

Sam Barnett
Sam Barnett

Super Reviewer


Simple, informative, fascinating and quite wonderful. Watching the 'Happy people' of Taiga training their dogs, building their boats and setting their traps is both hypnotic and humbling. For people who appreciate the simple things in life and seek a little more warmth than you get with your typical National Geographic produced program - this is the feel good documentary for you. For Werner Herzog fans it's also a must.

Anthony Lawrie

Super Reviewer

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