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ASU brings Werner Herzog and his films to Tempe

April 04, 2011

Two of the documentaries will showcase extreme environments, personalities

German filmmaker Werner Herzog has routinely risked life and limb to make movies that depict the remote corners of the planet as well as the emotional interior of humankind's most far-fetched dreams. Renowned for being eccentric, daring and demanding, Herzog was called the most interesting man on the planet by Vanity Fair magazine. Francois Truffaut considers Herzog to be the most important filmmaker alive.

Arizona State University is bringing Herzog and his films to Tempe this month for a number of screenings and panel discussions.

The mini-film fest – "Life in Extremis: The Documentary Films of Werner Herzog" – will feature two of his acclaimed documentaries on April 6 and 7 in Wrigley Hall, Room 101, on ASU’s Tempe campus. The screenings are a precursor to Herzog's in-person appearances at the ASU Origins Project Science and Culture Festival, during which his new 3-D film, "Cave of Forgotten Dreams," will be shown on April 10 at the Tempe Center for the Arts.

Here’s the lineup:

On April 6 at 5:30 p.m., Academy-award nominated "Encounters at the End of the World" will be screened in Wrigley Hall. In this documentary, Herzog looks at those humans who have adapted themselves to live and work in one of the most extreme environments on Earth: the barren depths of the South Pole. The film takes viewers beneath glaciers and inside volcanoes to reveal the ordeal of making truly inhospitable areas reachable, even as the landscape itself is in the process of disappearing.

On April 7 at 4:30 p.m., "Grizzly Man," Herzog's examination of the life, work and death of Timothy Treadwell, amateur grizzly bear expert and wildlife preservationist will be screened. Herzog used video footage that Treadwell recorded of himself as he lived unarmed among the bears for 13 summers in the Alaskan wild. In October, 2003, Treadwell's remains, along with those of his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard, were discovered near their campsite in Alaska's Katmai National Park and Reserve. They had been mauled and devoured by a grizzly, the first known victims of a bear attack in the park.

Following the April 7 screening will be a guest lecture by Eric Ames, associate professor of German at the University of Washington. The title of Ames' talk is "Ferocious Reality: Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man and the Autobiographical Act." Ames will examine how Herzog’s reframing of Treadwell’s video reveals much about Herzog’s own attitudes toward nature and matters of life and death.

“Throughout his career, Herzog has made extensive and extremely creative use of found footage of all kinds; in this respect, the film is quite consistent with the rest of his work,” said Ames. “On another level, ‘Grizzly Man’ may be Herzog’s most affecting film to date. It’s one that inspires seemingly endless discussion and debate among audiences.”

The “Life in Extremis” screenings are free and open to the public. Both films will be shown in Wrigley Hall, Room 101, the building on the southwest corner of University Drive and College Avenue, is the headquarters for ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability.

“With their focus on human lives and human endeavors taken to the extreme, both ‘Grizzly Man’ and ‘Encounters at the End of the World’ transport us to places and circumstances in which we are confronted by our very humanity,” said Dan Gilfillan, associate professor of German in the School of International Letters and Cultures in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “These films allow us to think about that which lies at the heart of what makes us human.”

"Life in Extremis" is presented by the School of International Letters and Cultures German language program. Co-sponsors are the ASU Origins Project, Institute for Humanities Research, Department of English, Film and Media Studies, School of Sustainability, and Project Humanities.

Additional information about the film screenings is available at

On April 8 at 3 p.m. in Neeb Hall on ASU’s Tempe campus, Herzog will participate in the opening panel for the ASU Origins Project Science and Culture Festival. Other panelists include Lawrence Krauss, a professor, theoretical physicist and founding director of the ASU Origins Project; Liz Lerman, an award-winning choreographer; Kimberly Marshall, director of the ASU School of Music; and Hugh Downs, a legendary broadcaster. The panel is free and open to the public.

On April 10 at 3 p.m. at the Tempe Center for the Arts, 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway, Herzog screens and discusses his new 3-D film, “Cave of forgotten Dreams,” a production of History Films. The film explores the earliest known images produced by humans.

Access to the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc caves of southern France where the images reside has been extremely restricted to protect the images from overexposure and damage. The images have been seen in person by only a handful of people.

This Herzog film explores the very nature of humanness.

Following the April 10 screening will be a panel discussion with Herzog, Krauss and Curtis Marean, a paleoanthropologist with the Institute of Human Origins at ASU, Tickets for the screening and discussion are $30 and are available at the Tempe Center for the Arts, or 480-350-2822. The 3-D glasses to view the film will be available to those who provide a driver’s license or photo ID.

A complete schedule of events for the ASU Origins Project Science and Culture Festival is at


Roxanne Wheelock,
School of International Letters and Cultures

Carol Hughes,
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences