In 1911, as part of his massive undertaking, famed Northwest photographer Edward S. Curtis travelled to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, to visit the Kwakwaka'wakw. By the next year, ...
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Exposing her role behind the camera, Kirsten Johnson reaches into the vast trove of footage she has shot over decades around the world. What emerges is a visually bold memoir and a revelatory interrogation of the power of the camera.
George and Gracie enter an elegant drawing room, looking everywhere for something. Turns out, they're looking for the audience, and when George spots the camera, they start in on their ... See full summary »
In 1911, as part of his massive undertaking, famed Northwest photographer Edward S. Curtis travelled to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, to visit the Kwakwaka'wakw. By the next year, needing money for his project and to add to his research and still photography work, Curtis decided that the best way to record the traditional way of life and ceremonies of the Kwakwaka'wakw was to make one of the first feature motion pictures. Curtis had already shot footage in 1906 of the Hopi Snake dance, which he had previously showed during his talks, but this was to be on a grander scale. It took three years of preparation for this one film including the weaving of the costumes; building of the war canoes, housefronts, poles; and the carving of masks. Assisting on the film was George Hunt, a Kwakwaka'wakw who had served as an interpreter for the famous anthropologist Franz Boas nearly twenty years before. Hunt helped contribute substantial portions of the film's story as well. Selected for the ...
I really would not venture to give this silent film a score--it is not a film in the traditional sense and probably has very little value to the average viewer. However, at the same time it IS of tremendous value to anthropologists, ethnographers and the like, as it records a way of life that has long disappeared--even if the manner in which it is presented is less than satisfying.
In 1914, Edward S. Curtis released a documentary film about the Kwakiutl Indians--a tribe living near Vancouver in the Pacific Northwest. However, this film was later cut apart and pieced together in the early 1970s and music, sound effects and native dialog were clumsily added. I was not able to see the original version and I doubt if it is available (another reviewer said this is a restoration work in progress).
Style wise, the film is very old fashioned. Like only the early films, intertitle cards described (at length) what was about to happen in the following scenes instead of telling as or after the events occurred. This made viewing a tad tedious. Also, the story about Indian wars and violence seemed artificial (as it was) and I have no idea if the Kwakiutl ever hunted heads or behaved the way they do in the film--as instead of a true documentary, the end product is a romanticized version of the tribe. This damages the value of the film for professors from the University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania and the like--all schools that have large and well-respected Ethnographic/Anthropological Studies departments. But, at the same time, as it DOES show native dances, costumes, animal costumes and the like, it is like gold to these same people. To the average non-academic, however, the films are probably of little lasting interest--though I know that this would disappoint many.
To me, this was mildly interesting as I am a true cinemaniac and my daughter studies this sort of stuff in college and has infused some of her enthusiasm in me....a bit. But, I certainly would not like a steady diet of this sort of film. As for me, I prefer later and better presented films like "Nanook of the North".
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