FOR FILMS IN CHARGE OF CHANGE
A SAUROPOD ABROAD
directed by Anna Cooley
‘A Sauropod Abroad’ is a documentary feature with a unique subject. In the summer of 2014, a Canadian family came up with a unique plan: Brian Cooley and Mary Ann Wilson designed and had a real-life representation of a Magyarosaurus built – a dwarf dinosaur measuring about 7 metres, fossils of which were discovered in the heart of Transylvania, Romania. Joined by their daughters Emily and Anna, they embark on a journey crossing several European countries with the dinosaur strapped on the back of their trailer. Their purposes for undertaking such an idiosyncratic action were, apart from personal satisfaction, making people aware of the history of the Earth, prompting science understanding across cultures, and last, but not least, making passer-byes happy and excited.
The documentary follows the entirety of their experience, shining a spotlight not only the route which they take, but also memorable events which occur during the travel, technical issues, customs problems, personal worldviews, and of course, quite a few surprises along the way. Highlights include the family parading their dinosaur around the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, taking it for a drive whilst dressed up in German colours through the streets of Munich just after Germany had won the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and Brian getting arrested right before the Austrian border for accidentally forgetting to pay for a gas refill. They stop at a number of natural reserves in Germany and Hungary before crossing into Romania, and passing through Brasov, a Transylvanian medieval city, going all the way to the Danube Delta and the shores of the Black Sea, and traversing through the capital city of Bucharest just before taking the dinosaur to its ‘home’, in Hateg.
The film is mostly comprised of footage taken during the voyage, but also contains a few interview scenes, snapshots, time lapses and even a short animation. Director Anna Cooley does an outstanding job with directing the film, putting together some really beautiful shots of the dinosaur in various locations. With backdrops ranging from the Eiffel Tower to medieval churches, mountains, the seaside and a sunflower field, the Magyarosaurus seems to fit in with each and every one of them, much to the delight of the locals. In each of the locations they pass through, the Cooleys and their dinosaur are greeted with smiles, laughter, excitement and applause. The 7-metre monster brings people together, breaks their routine and for a brief while, makes them forget their worries, problems or socio-economic status and simply enjoy the moment.
‘A Sauropod Abroad’ is not perfect: at times it drags on a little bit, at others the repetition of the same song as a score, although appropriate in the beginning, gets slightly pervasive. However, it remains an admirable project and a breath of fresh air within the documentary scene. The fact that there was a family behind the entire thing, with their own planning problems, customs difficulties and arising issues along the way, as opposed to a large multinational company, makes the movie feel more natural, humane and easy to sympathise with. This is a great film, an adventure which is easy to recommend.