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 Image: Edward Curtis’s 1914 silent film In the Land of the Head Hunters. Photo courtesy of Aaron Glass.


In the Land of the Head Hunters

Friday, 13 March 2015, at 18:30
Concordia University, EV-1.605 (map)

In the Land of the Head Hunters
Edward S. Curtis, director. 1914. 65 min.
Screening of the film In the Land of the Head Hunters will begin at 18:30


Aaron Glass

Assistant professor, Bard Graduate Center, New York, NY

In 1914, the American photographer Edward S. Curtis released the first feature-length, silent, fiction film to star an entirely Indigenous cast. In the Land of the Head Hunters — an epic melodrama of pre-contact love, war, sorcery, and ritual — was made with the Kwakwaka'wakw (Kwakiutl) on location in British Columbia, and is the earliest extant feature film made in Canada. Its premiers in New York and Seattle were accompanied by an original musical score written for the film by John. J. Braham, best known for arranging Gilbert and Sullivan in the US. Though lost for decades, portions were discovered and re-edited (without the score) in the early 1970s; retitled In the Land of the War Canoes, it was anachronistically recast as a “documentary” by removing Curtis's narrative framing and inserting more ethnographically accurate title cards and soundtrack elements. A collaborative team of Kwakwaka'wakw and scholars has overseen a new restoration of the film that features its original title and inter-title cards, long-missing footage and color tinting, initial publicity graphics, and original musical score—the earliest for a feature-length film to survive. Returned to the intercultural history of modern cinema, the film’s centennial in 2014 was marked by an edited volume from the University of Washington Press (http://www.washington.edu/uwpress/search/books/EVARET.html), and a DVD release by Milestone Films (http://www.milestonefilms.com/collections/exploration-ethnography/products/in-the-land-of-the-head-hunters).


Aaron Glass is an Assistant Professor at the Bard Graduate Center in New York City. He specializes in First Nations art, material culture, media, and performance on the Northwest Coast, as well as the history of anthropology and museums. Glass recently worked with the U’mista Cultural Centre to document the large Kwakwaka’wakw collection at the Ethnological Museum Berlin in an innovative digital database, and to restore and present Edward Curtis’s 1914 silent feature film, “In the Land of the Head Hunters.” His books include The Totem Pole: An Intercultural History (with Aldona Jonaitis, 2010); Objects of Exchange: Social and Material Transformation on the Late Nineteenth-Century Northwest Coast (the catalogue for an exhibition he curated at the Bard Graduate Center in 2011); and Return to the Land of the Head Hunters: Edward S. Curtis, the Kwakwaka’wakw, and the Making of Modern Cinema (with Brad Evans, 2014).

 

Of Related Interest:

Aaron Glass, Bard Graduate Center

In the Land of the Head Hunters

Objects of Exchange: Social and Material Transformation on the Late Nineteenth-Century Northwest Coast