Buried unearths tragic history

Regional history plays a part in the new documentary Buried: The 1982 Alpine Meadows Avalanche. Directors Jared Drake and Steven Siig grew up near the Tahoe area ski resort and combine their knowledge with curiosity to explore an event that captured international attention forty years ago. The avalanche made headlines by pummeling over eight people hanging out around the Alpine Meadows ski office even though the facility itself was closed to the public.

An interview with the now grizzled avalanche forecaster starts the story, twitching with emotion as he recalls the event. It makes a strong hook to get into the story, whether or not you know or remember what ultimately happened. The filmmakers worked hard to locate others involved in the search, rescue, and waiting process, painting a portrait of the time forty years ago before computers, cell phones, other equipment.

Archival photos and footage show a more casual era with happy young athletes now transformed into the older faces of people who still suffer from some form of post-traumatic stress. The directors use effective interview techniques to draw honest and emotional responses from their subjects, strikingly photographed against a simple, dark backdrop.

Newer cinematography, including drone work, provides sharp, crisp images, while well-chosen archival material provides a ticket to the past. The story itself remains strong; it inspired a book called Wall of White and could easily turn into a dramatic film. No need for that though, the documentary Buried provides a factual and illuminating look at people with their weaknesses and strengths.

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