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On Your Radar: Film Review Dinosaur 13
by Karen Pecota

Selected as one of the films to open the 2014 Sundance Film Festival was the moving picture Dinosaur 13. A documentary from producer, director and editor, Todd Douglas Miller. Chosen to compete in the Festival's World Premiere U.S. Documentary Category.

The film's title did not grab me. Therefore, I wasn't too motivated to attend the screening at the scheduled late hour. My day had started early and I wasn't sure I could stay awake. Guilt ridden to fulfill my journalist duty to my outlet and support the festival programmers, I got in the cue early to get a good seat. The ones closest to the theater's aisle. Those seats invite a single journalist who might see fit for a early or quick exit. 

A cup a coffee in hand coupled with a few snacks and I was ready for the camera to roll. To my surprise I was glad my guilty conscience got the best of me. Hats off to filmmaker Miller for his creative tactic to reel-in the non-scientific mind, like me. Each film segment built upon the other. Visually describing how a small group of paleontologists approached a fossil dig deep in the heart of middle America. Miller had me hook, line, and sinker. I was wide awake!

Miller's storytelling divided the documentary into two parts: The first part was about a small group of Paleontologists find-of-a-lifetime called Dinosaur 13. To observe the discovery and the transport of the beast was invigorating. The second part was the sincere Paleontologists' battle to hold onto their unbelievable find.

Miller explains, "My favorite part of visiting the American Museum of Natural History in New York is walking down the Helibrunn Cosmic Pathway which wraps around the outside of the Hayden Planetarium." He adds, "It is 360 feet long. Every step I take represents millions of years in the universe's 13-billion-year history." Miller continues, "At the very end is the Age of the Dinosaurs, and just a little further down is an actual human hair, representing the duration of human existence. The width of a human hair puts things in prospective."

It was the find of a lifetime. In 1990, the largest most complete T. Rex dinosaur was found by Paleontologist Peter Larson and his team from the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research. The group named the fossilized beast Dinosaur 13. Simply because it was scientifically found and documented as the thirteenth dinosaur discovery. The complete skeletal bone structure was a benefit beyond belief. The most complete to date.

The find was breaking news. The Larson team never dreamed that to keep their dinosaur would take them on a long and rugged ten-year war path. Shocking were the clutches of greed by the U.S. government, powerful museums, art houses, Native American tribes and land owners of an entitlement to something they did not discover. The media did not go away.

Filmmaker Todd Douglas Miller feels like his documentation of the ten-year journey Larson and his team endured put things in prospective. He says, "Our existence can be measured in a blink of an eye and Dinosaur 13 makes one wonder about what came before us and what will come after us."  Miller believes that the more important issue is what happens in the here-and-now when magnificent discoveries are made. The human condition is at stake. The way in which we treat each other. The way in which we treat the time and space we exist in, matters. The human element inside the time and space in Larson's journey reveals a profound existence and ponders what it means to live in our time. Miller concludes, "The Larson team thought they were fighting for their dinosaur but ended up fighting for their freedom."