December 10, 2013
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v2.1 Reference

Return to the Land of the Head Hunters

Edward S. Curtis, the Kwakwaka'wakw, and the Making of Modern Cinema

Edited by Brad Evans and Aaron Glass
Foreword by Bill Holm
The first silent feature film with an "all Indian" cast and a surviving original orchestral score, Edward Curtis's 1914 In the Land of the Head Hunters was a landmark of early cinema. Influential but often neglected in historical accounts, this spectacular melodrama was an intercultural product of Curtis's encounter and collaboration with the Kwakwaka'wakw of British Columbia.

In recognition of the film's centennial, and alongside the release of a restored version, Return to the Land of the Head Hunters brings together leading anthropologists, Native American authorities, artists, musicians, literary scholars, and film historians to reassess the film and its legacy. The volume offers unique Kwakwaka'wakw perspectives on the film, accounts of its production and subsequent circulation, and evaluations of its depictions of cultural practice.Like his photographs, Curtis's motion picture was meant to document a supposedly vanishing race. But as this collection shows, the film is not simply an artifact of colonialist nostalgia. Resituated within film history and informed by a legacy of Kwakwaka'wakw participation and response, the movie offers dynamic evidence of ongoing cultural survival and transformation under shared conditions of modernity.

About the Authors

Brad Evans is an associate professor of English at Rutgers University. Aaron Glass is an assistant professor of Anthropology at the Bard Graduate Center.


"The benefit of hindsight tempts us to dismiss Curtis’s naïveté or his fetishization of authenticity. But the many voices brought together here - art historians both native and non-native, activists, anthropologists, even a renowned modern Kwakwaka’wakw documentary filmmaker - reach for a more nuanced critical appreciation of the film’s legacy. . . . Glass, Evans, and their contributors show Curtis and his native collaborators have left something that can be bent to new uses as a bulwark against cultural erasure."—Christopher F. Roth, Reed Magazine

"An important work, dealing with the history of the Kwakwaka’wakw as well as the history of cinema . . . [with] essays by anthropologists, Native American authorities, artists, musicians, literary scholars, and film historians. The book includes Kwakwaka’wakw perspectives on the film, as well as information about how it was made and distributed."—Dave Obee, Times Colonist


"Lively and inspiring . . . a comprehensive and completely original cross-disciplinary collection that offers a model of how new work on older cultural materials can take place."—Faye Ginsburg, director of the Center for Media, Culture, and History, New York University

"A highly original collection of essays that offers a theoretically sophisticated understanding. . . . Exemplifies collaboration between indigenous communities, scholars, and artists."—Pauline Turner Strong, author of American Indians and the American Imaginary: Cultural Representation Across the Centuries

"Curtis's epic melodrama of the precontact Kwakwaka'wakw world has been given a new life, with the advantages of the discovery of a surviving bit of original film, the revival of the orchestral score originally composed for the motion picture, the expertise of film historians and musicians, the use of advanced film-reconstruction technology and modern concepts of restoration. It is a new chapter in the story of Edward S. Curtis in the land of the head hunters."—Bill Holm, From the foreword

9780295993447 : return-to-the-land-of-the-head-hunters-evans-glass-holm
392 Pages
$50.00 USD

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