Movie review

There he goes. A man alone. Pack on his back, yellow slicker shedding raindrops, tramping through the woods in the North Bend/Snoqualmie area in the documentary “Hunting Bigfoot.”

The woods are dense, soaked in rain, dusted by snow, obscured by mist from time to time. (The cinematography is extraordinarily atmospheric.)

A man could lose himself in there.

Meet John Green. He’s such a man.

He’s obsessed, single-mindedly driven to trek the mountainous terrain in search of Sasquatch.

He’s been doing it since April 17, 2009, when he claims he had an up-close encounter.

“I’ve seen it. I’ve smelled it. I’ve looked into the creature’s eyes,” he says to Taylor Guterson, the Seattle-based independent filmmaker, a University of Washington film studies grad who wrote, produced and directed the picture. Guterson (“Old Goats”), intrepidly followed Green, camera in hand, from the spring of 2016 through the winter of 2020 as he trekked and searched.

Green’s obsession has come at a price. He’s estranged from his two grown children. Daughter Anita Green tells Guterson she questions her father’s sanity. She calls his obsession a disease. “To watch him come in and out of reality … was torture.” It’s driven her to tears. Stepson Chris Williams speaks of not having seen his father for years.

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Green, a widower, concedes that he’s caused his children pain but then says family ties are “peripheral stuff” compared to his single-minded focus on his Bigfoot quest.

Author and Bigfoot expert Robert Michael Pyle calls Green’s malady “Bigfoot gold fever” and says those who suffer from it, exclusively men, generally lack basic survival skills for living in the woods. “The guys who catch Bigfoot gold fever, they become lost to it,” Pyle says.

One of Green’s friends, Ben Cockman, a gym owner and a self-confessed fellow obsessive — “this is a little crazy,” he acknowledges — is shown accompanying Green in his treks through the woods. He admires Green and values his friendship.

Green is a starchy guy, dismissing other people’s claims of having seen the creature as BS, “a hodgepodge of different people’s opinions, and I think most of it is made up.”

He even gets irritated with Guterson, who late in the picture has a testy exchange with Green when he claims, “there’s something behind that stump,” prompting Guterson to respond, “looks like a squirrel to me.” “That’s not a squirrel,” Green huffily replies. “You’re wasting our time,” Guterson says.

Not long after that Green stopped cooperating with the filmmaker, a situation that lasted from 2019 to 2020. Later he relented and allowed Guterson to resume filming his low-budget, locally financed feature.

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What emerges from “Hunting Bigfoot” is a portrait of a man in pain. Born in Nigeria in 1950, the son of a physician, Green became a successful entrepreneur when he moved to Los Angeles and founded a multimillion-dollar company selling logoed T-shirts. He moved to the Pacific Northwest in 1993, his wife died of breast cancer in 2004 and he suffered financial reverses that resulted in his filing for bankruptcy in 2009. Homeless, his search for “the Primate” (he doesn’t use the term Bigfoot) began that year.

The movie shows him tearfully mourning his wife during a scene at the cemetery on what would have been their 40th anniversary. Late in the picture he seeks to reconnect with his children. And he begins to despair over the time he’s devoted to his longtime quest. He speaks of “years of disappointment” and wonders whether he can continue his search. “I don’t know if I have it in me.”

But then his spirits lift as he and Cockman connect with scientists who analyze a sample of what the friends believe is Bigfoot scat. Might their quest not be a wild Primate chase? The answer is ambiguous.

By the end, Green is shown walking away from the camera, heading back to the woods.

His search goes on.

‘Hunting Bigfoot’ ★★★

A documentary directed by Taylor Guterson. 86 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (includes some nudity, language). Opens Friday, Aug. 20, at the Admiral and then Aug. 27 at the Varsity.

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