Searching for Dragons

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An encounter with a stone dragon in the heart of Central America, inspires filmmaker Dan Gainsford to abandon a routine desk job and embark on a five-year pilgrimage from the Arctic to Panama. Intuition guides Gainsford’s path in this non-traditional documentary as he struggles with his place in the North American dream. In the end, visionaries and laymen help him renew his purpose and reveal the importance of forging new stories about the places we call home.

The Road

The film captures a Gainsford's contemporary pilgrimage down the centreline of the North America. This specific method was inspired by the filmmaker's interest in sacred pilgrimages: the road to Mecca, the road to Lourdes, the road to Rome, and the road to Santiago. The journey commences in Canada's North West Territories in Ulukhaktok (Holman) on Victoria Island far north of the Arctic Circle. From this location the filmmaker travels south through Alberta, Saskatchewan, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica before finally ending at the Panama Canal.

Story and Place

The stories of our lives and those of humanity are rooted to the land around us. For millennia those stories were passed orally between generations and this is how we came to understand things like the weather or the best places to fish. These days, it seems harder to connect to our own story because we no longer have the roots that go deep into a place. The speed of life has outpaced our ability to distill and absorb the most important information. For this exact reason, the filmmaker wanted to capture images of many places and spend time with the different people who could talk about the place of humans on the land. In this way, Gainsford allows the viewer an eagle's eye not only on our current world, but into our past and future.

"Marshall McLuhan told us to think of all technology in environmental terms because of the way it envelops us and becomes difficult to perceive. From morning to night we walk through a world that is totally manufactured, a creation of human invention. We are surrounded by pavement, machinery, gigantic concrete structures. Automobiles, airplanes, computers, appliances, television, electric lights, artificial air, have become the physical universe with which our senses interact. They are what we touch, observe and react to. They are themselves "information," in that they shape how we think and, in the absence of an alternate reality ( i.e. nature), what we think about and know." - Jerry Mander - In The Absence of the Sacred

Guerrilla Filmmaking

This film project was a massive undertaking but the crew was limited to the filmmaker and at times one assistant filmmaker - Forbes Campbell. The entire production was guerrilla in nature, with the crew living out of a single GMC Van. This van acted as a home/refuge for the duration of the project, forcing a life lived modestly with any extra dollars going towards the essentials of food, fuel and film stock.


Searching for Dragons is very much influenced by the life and films of Frank Cole. Frank traveled the Sahara in search of his own dragons and built a life around his filmmaking and personal process. Dan Gainsford is working towards similar goals as a filmmaker by documenting his journey of viewing and understanding our world. In the end, he is working to create a dreamlike visionary experience built out of fragments captured from our seemingly unreal reality.