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Tiny Torrington, AB longs to be frozen in time like the gophers in its tourist attraction.

RUNTIME: 00:14:11

In a dark room seventy pairs of beady eyes stare back at you from behind illuminated glass boxes. The eyes belong to the taxidermized gophers populating the dioramas of the Torrington Gopher Hole Museum. The Museum was opened in 1996 in the rural hamlet of Torrington, Alberta (pop. 200). The gophers are lovingly costumed and arranged in dioramas as members of the community. 

The museum's creation story goes something like this: back in the mid-'90s the fortunes of rural Canada were grim. Large scale agriculture had come to gut the family farming industry, in turn depressing the small communities that had grown up around the farms. Tourism seemed like a good option for Torrington, but all the town had to offer was a severe gopher problem that wasn't going away. Finally, one frustrated council member quipped that they might as well just stuff them then, and so the World Famous Gopher Hole Museum was born.

Curator Dianne Kurta has been the museum's one steadfast caregiver for its 20 year history. Initially she thought the stuffed gopher scheme sounded a little nuts, but soon found it gave her purpose and a connection with her hometown. Recently her health has started to deteriorate. Slowly she acknowledges a day is coming when she can no longer be of service to the museum. Can one survive without the other?

This unflinching portrait looks at absurdity and sincerity as intertwined necessities of life. Long-time citizens tell their own stories of Torrington, depicted in tableau by the dioramas preserving them for the ages.  A layer cake of comedy, pathos, irony, and empathy, World Famous Gopher Hole Museum is a journey into the human desire to validate one’s own history.

Credits (Click to expand)

Dianne Kurta

Ruth Marsh
Marvin Bauer
Gayle Gibson
Garnet & Diane Bauer
The Dots and Dashers Square Dance Club
The Hamlet of Torrington, AB

Directed By
Chelsea McMullan
Douglas Nayler

Produced By
Kylie McMullan

Director of Photography
Maya Bankovic

Additional Photography
Alejandro Coronado
Catherine Lutes

Douglas Nayler

Sound Design
Alex Unger

Sound Mix
Graham Rogers

Simone Schmidt

“Who Is The Matador?”
The Highest Order

Title Design
Henriette Kruse Jørgensen

Color Correct
Walt Biljan

Thanks To
Lea Marin
Tereza Bharta
Joyce Wong
Courtney Stephens
Matthew Lloyd
Cole J. Alvis
Omid Fatemi
Derek Howard
Leanne MacKay
Avrïl Jacobson
Daniel & Miles Aitken
Andy Harris
Rob Mitchell
Katherine Radhuber
The Silver Willows Club of Torrington
Dan Wilson
Brin Chenille Bugo
Daniel McIntyre
Chris Niessing
Les Blank
Lindsay Alikas

We Would Like To Acknowledge Funding Support From The Following

Canada Council For the Arts
Ontario Arts Council
Toronto Arts Council

Services Provided By
Deluxe Post-Production Toronto
Tattersall Sound & Picture