Thursday, Jun. 21, 7:30 p.m., free
Full Frame Theater, Durham

As I have gone alone in there
And with my treasures bold,
I can keep my secret where,
And hint of riches new and old.

Forrest Fenn, from “The Thrill of the Chase”

There’s gold in them thar hills. Also emeralds, rubies, diamonds, and possibly other precious artifacts amassed by eccentric art dealer Forrest Fenn, who stashed them in an actual treasure chest and hid it somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Fenn estimates the value of the booty to be as high as $2 million.

Fenn originally teased the location of the hidden treasure in his 2010 book The Thrill of the Chase, which included a twenty-four line poem that supposedly conceals nine clues. (You can find it on Fenn’s Instagram.) The clues, along with cryptic emails and interviews by the eighty-seven-year-old millionaire, have fueled a cult-like devotion in searchers from all walks of life, who gather online to scrutinize quirks in typography and syntax, and who regularly descend on the Rockies in the hopes of uncovering the elusive treasure.

Since Fenn announced the concealed bounty, almost three-hundred-fifty thousand people are estimated to have tried to discover it, mostly peacefully but not without controversy. Multiple people have claimed they found the treasure over the years, though Fenn insists it remains where he hid it. And in January, an autopsy confirmed the identity of a treasure seeker who had washed up in the Arkansas River the previous summer. This brought the quest’s death toll to four, and authorities encouraged Fenn to call off the hunt. Since then, he has released more clues to discourage reckless behavior, but the hunt goes on.

Fenn has said that his inspiration came in the form of a cancer diagnosis. Convinced he was dying, he conceived of the hunt in 1988 and considered including some of the more unusual artifacts he had acquired, such as Sitting Bull’s peace pipe and a mummified falcon from King Tut’s tomb. Then he convalesced. But, decades later, he went through with it. This time, he claimed his goal was to encourage families to get outdoors and experience nature, to stop texting, to interact more.

We learn all this and more in Fenn’s Searchers, local filmmaker Matt Maisano’s new documentary, which has its local premiere at Full Frame Theater on Thursday. A graduate of the Fitchburg State University film school, Maisano moved to the Triangle in 2014 to take a position as a videographer and producer at PBS. When a coworker told him about the hunt in 2013, the seed was planted for Maisano’s first feature documentary film project.