Film Screenings

Still, Romance of the Far Fur Country (Wyckoff, 1920)
Still, Romance of the Far Fur Country (Wyckoff, 1920)

Film Screenings and Presentations
All events are free and open to the public.


Screenings:Challenging the Expedition Tradition of Arctic Documentaries”
Spurlock Museum Auditorium (600 S Gregory St, Urbana)

[Crocker Land Expedition] (Donald B. MacMillan, USA, 1914) 11 min.

Running roughly 11 minutes, this recently rediscovered film, thought to be MacMillan’s first, accompanies the Spurlock’s exhibit of Crocker Land Expedition photographs.  It includes footage of MacMillan at Etah in Northwestern Greenland, a long-term staging ground for polar expeditions and, and of the Inuit families who lived there. The Crocker Land Expedition was sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History, and the film also includes Minik, the Inuit boy who was removed from Greenland by Robert Peary and moved to the Museum as a mascot where, unbeknownst to him, his father’s bones were put on display. The film, then, highlights the colonialism of early ethnographic film and practices.

Of Seals and Men (Mai Zetterling, Denmark/Sweden, 1979) 30 min.

Not screened in nearly 30 years, Of Seals and Men was shot with a small crew on location in remote Eastern Greenland as contract work for Denmark’s Royal Greenland Trade Department, with an  explicit mandate to show the merits of traditional Greenlandic seal hunting practices at a time of intense global media scrutiny and as Greenland was approaching Home Rule. Of Seals and Men may be partly  Danish colonial propaganda, positing Greenlandic culture as primitivist and primordial, but its aesthetic strategies foreground a visceral and visual pleasure in corporeality that aligns with Zetterling’s oeuvre and, arguably, her fascination with embodying the role of a  hardy Arctic explorer.

Creation (Stan Brakhage, USA, 1979) 16 min.

Creation was made when experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage was teaching in Alaska in 1979. Creation offers a vision of the Arctic at odds with most cinematic representations of it. Fragmentary and frenetic, almost devoid of life, Creation, as P. Adams Sitney notes, offers: “a proximate inspiration for the sublime vision of a world of massive ice and scarred rock” as inspired “by nineteenth-century American landscape painter, Frederic Edwin Church…”. The Arctic, as seen in  Brakhage’s film is almost devoid of humans, and offers a subjective, visionary aesthetic, providing a rich counterpoint to dominant realist visual tropes of the Arctic as empty, barren, and desolate.

The Idea of the North (Rebecca Baron, USA, 1995) 14 min.

In the guise of chronicling the final moments of three polar explorers–who sought to reach the North Pole via air balloon but ended up marooned on an ice floe–Baron’s film investigates the limitations of images and other forms of record as a means of knowing the past. The Idea of the North emphasizes the paradoxical interplay of cinematic time, historical time, real time, and the fixed moment of the photograph. The film is based on photographs taken in 1897 by polar explorers Nils Strindberg and Salomon Andrée. The plates were rediscovered among the expedition’s remains on an island north of Spitsbergen in 1930, providing a haunting record of failed expeditions and the ideologies that informed them.


7.30 – 9.30 PM. Public Lecture and Screening:
Spurlock Museum Auditorium (600 S Gregory St, Urbana)

“Change Perspective, Change the World”

Ivalo Frank, Filmmaker and Director of Greenland Eyes Film Festival.

In her presentation,  Ivalo Frank will screen her documentaries Echoes (2010, 24 min), about the legacy of the Cold War in the Greenlandic landscape, and Killerbird (2015, 14 min), made with Greenlandic performance artist Jessie Kleemann. Frank will also show clips from some of her other Greenlandic films, including Open (2012), which addresses the plight of mentally ill Greenlandic inmates, imprisoned in Denmark for indefinite amounts of time, 4000km away from their home country. Ivalo will also present recent Greenlandic films and the growing film scene in Nuuk, contextualized in light of the film festival she directs, Greenland Eyes. The festival has toured Europe and the United States since 2012, including as part of a special program at the Smithsonian Museum in May 2015.


5:00-7.30 PM Screening II: Rediscovering the Arctic Archive I,
Spurlock Museum Auditorium (600 S Gregory St, Urbana)
The Romance of the Far Fur Country (Harold M. Wyckhoff, Canada, 1920) 120 min.
Introduction and Q&A by Kevin Nikkel of Five Door Films

Released two years before the film that came to define the genres of both documentary and Arctic filmmaking, Robert Flaherty’s Nanook of the North (USA, 1922), Wyckhoff’s The Romance of the Far Fur Country depicts both Hudson’s Bay Company’s outposts — the world’s leading fur trade company at the time — and the Inuit who inhabit the land. Recently restored and not seen in over 80 years, The Romance of the Far Fur Country was produced by the Hudson’s Bay Company to celebrate its 250th anniversary and was the first feature length documentary produced in the Canadian Arctic. In subsequent years, the feature was divided up into short films, those also long buried in archives.


3:00-4.00 PM Screening III: Rediscovering the Arctic Archive II,
Spurlock Museum Auditorium (600 S Gregory St, Urbana)

Polar Life (Graeme Ferguson, Canada, 1967) 17 min.
Introduction, Presentation, and Q&A with Monika Kin Gagnon

Polar Life began as an eleven-screen film shown at Montreal’s Expo ‘67, documenting both the Arctic and Antarctic, and lives of the Inuit, Sámi, and the Northern inhabitants of Alaska, Scandinavia and Siberia. After his experiences making the film, Graeme Ferguson went on to develop IMAX. Unseen for almost 40 years, and recently restored as a three-channel work by La cinémathèque québécoise and The National Film Board of Canada/Office national du film, Polar Life stands as one of the first transnational circumpolar films, and a key early work of ‘expanded cinema’.

4:15-5.30 PM Screening IV: Documentary Images of Sápmi,

Spurlock Museum Auditorium (600 S Gregory St, Urbana)

Wind from the West (Vinden från Väster, Arne Sucksdorff, Sweden, 1942) 17 min.

Swedish documentary filmmaker Arne Sucksdorrf’s work challenges the dominance of Voice-of-God realism so prevalent in the post-War era. Sharing aesthetic similarities with UK filmmaker Humphrey Jennings, Sucksdorff’s work could be called the first examples of expressionist documentary. Wind from the West, the first of two Sucksdorff films being screened, is a short documentary about the life of a Sami family in the northernmost part of Sweden. Despite its status as a documentary film, Wind from the West contains expressionist elements, foregrounding the subjective nature of documentary cinema. This film, along with other Sucksdorff documentaries, was distributed as a documentary travelogue in American cinemas, in this case by 20th Century Fox.

Shadows over the Snow  (Skuggor över Snön, Arne Sucksdorff, Sweden, 1946) 11 min.

This expressionist documentary features the lives and habitats of various animals living in the north of Sweden and role of the hunter in this environment. Unlike most nature documentaries, Suckdorff’s film is filled with close-ups of the animals in their environments, and does not anthropomorphize them. Instead, the film focuses on the shared landscape in which hunter and animals live in the snow.

Rebel (Bihttoš, Elle-Maija Tailfeathers, Canada, 2013) 12 min.

Bihttoš is an unconventional documentary that explores the complex relationship between a father and daughter. Through animation, re-enactments, and archival photos, writer/director Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers (of Sámi and Blackfoot heritage) delves into the dissolution of her parents’ mythic love story and how it has colored her perception of love in her adult life.

Jorinda’s Journey (Jorindas Resa/Liselotte Wajstedt /Sweden/Norway/Finland, 2014) 16 min.

Inspired by Ann-Marie Ljungberg’s contentious and experimental Swedish novel The Journey to Kautokeino (1998), this captivating film intertwines Japanese Butoh performance practices and Sámi yoik to capture a young woman’s journey through a frozen – and often threatening – landscape. The film offers an aesthetically sophisticated counterpoint to media reports that downplay the abuse of young women by Sámi elders in Kautokeino.

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