Screening in Fort Chip

Fort Chipewyan, January 27, 2012

After spending the day walking on frozen Lake Athabasca and visiting with Oliver Ganfield and Pam Gibot at the Fort Chipewyan Bicentennial Museum it was time for the screening of The Romance of the Far Fur Country at the Wood Buffalo Municipal Hall.

Talking to community members as they came in, it was sinking in that this footage was having its first screening in Fort Chip since it was shot almost 100 years ago. Following Filmmaker Kevin Nikkel’s introduction the lights went down and the 30 minute version of the film – the “highlights reel” – was projected on the screen. There were excited whispers from the 25 plus members of the audience as scenes of Fort MacMurray and particularly Fort Chip appeared. Dog teams running along the trail; a woman weaving porcupine quills; scenes of the community shot from Cherry Hill: these scenes and others were both drawing people in and bringing forth memories of times past and the changing present. One resonant scene was the footage of Alexandre Laviolette, making an impassioned speech that was accompanied by a caption explaining that the Chief of the Chipewyans was making it clear that by making a closed season on game the Treaty was not being kept.

When I first saw the footage in a viewing room in the National Film and Television Archives in London I knew that these images needed to make the journey back to northern Canada. It was an honour to be present for this screening, to see images from 1919 of Chipewyan trapper Baptiste Plat Cote with Pat Marcel, who was seeing pictures of his great uncle for the first time.

In the discussion after the film was done and the lights went on, we heard how the footage should be made accessible not only to people in the community but to all Canadians. Let the discussion and dialogue continue.


Arctic film footage selected as Strombo Video of the Day

George Stroumboulopoulos has named the excerpt from The Romance of the Far Fur Country as put together by Kevin Nikkel of Five Door Films as the Video of the Day. See it here:

As noted on the Strombo site:

“What was life like in the Canadian Arctic in 1919? A recently restored documentary film, originally created to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Hudson Bay Company, presents a vivid vision of the northern part of the country as it was back then.”

While the footage does provide a glimpse into the past, it is important to also remember that many of the scenes were “staged” for the camera; further the titles that were presented as part of the finished motion picture attempted to project a view of the north as filtered through the lens of the Hudson’s Bay Company.

More media coverage of northern Canada film: CBC Edmonton AM Interview

My interview with with CBC Edmonton AM about Romance of the Far Fur Country was aired this morning (January 23, 2012).

Tune in here.

Romance footage now on CBC’s The National

About 40 seconds of The Romance of the Far Fur Country footage was now on the CBC’s National, with Wendy Mesley. It can be viewed here (click on the iconic cinematographer filming from a kayak).

Romance of the Far Fur Country Making News

Footage from The Romance of the Far Fur Country, a long lost film originally shot in Canada in 1919, premiered in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada at the Metro Cinema (January 21, 2012). Following the film, documentary film maker Kevin Nikkel and I had an opportunity to talk about the making of the film and how it is now seeing the light of day over 90 years after it was first show in Edmonton – that was May of 1920, at the Allen Theatre.

The screening generated considerable interest, including an article in the BBC News Magazine by Chris Nikkel. CBC Edmonton was at the screening, and produced a web report.

The film will be shown in three communities in northern Alberta – Fort McMurray (January 22), Fort MacKay (January 23), and Fort Chipewyan (January 26). I am looking forward to be joining this Nitrate Treasures: Alberta Tour for the screening in Fort Chipewyan. So if you are at the Wood Buffalo Municipal Building at 7 pm I will see you there.

There is also the chance to view the footage at its Winnipeg premiere on February 15. 2012.