In the Land of the War Canoes

© Curtis
47 minutes / B&W / 1972
Directed by
Edward S. Curtis

Country of production Canada United States

The film was made in 1914 by Edward Curtis. The plot concerns the efforts of a young man, Motana, son of a great chief, to obtain a bride and how he is thwarted by a wicked sorcerer. Many of the conventions of early film narrative can be identified in the film's structure and organisation.

The film vanished and was completely forgotten and only rediscovered in 1962 by Bill Holms at the Field Museum in Washington. In 1972 the film was restored and re-edited by Holms, David Gerth and George Quimby, with soundtrack of songs and dialogue by the Kwakiutl. The name of the new version was changed to 'In the Land of the War Canoes' when the Kwakiutl objected to Curtis' original title. Although the original material had suffered some nitrate damage over the years, the film is an artistic triumph by one of the finest photographers and an invaluable ethnographic resource of a vanishing culture. The war canoes and totems, built by the Kwakiutl for the film, represent some of the largest great work of their traditional art.

Language and subtitles Original Version with English Subtitles

Region North America

Country Canada

Keywords Archival material / Museum displays Marriage Film / Photography / Mass media