Landmark film returns to the site of its 1914 premiere
On Tuesday night at 7--93 1/2 years later--a newly restored version of the film returns to the Moore as a key event of the 34th Seattle International Film Festival, with its original orchestral score performed live and a dance recital by descendants of the film's Native American cast.
In the near century between its two Moore dates, much has happened to the film:
In 1999 "Head Hunters" was added to the National Film Registry--an honor bestowed on only the most "culturally significant motion picture classics."
In the land of the headhunters
For the Kwakwaka'wakw, dancing and singing for the camera would be like sending a message in a bottle to future generations of their people
As a result, the idea of acting in a movie fit with what they had been doing for thousands of years.
But when Curtis arrived, the Kwakwaka'wakw were in a cultural straitjacket. The visual and performing traditions that had attracted so much international attention were exactly what the Canadian government wanted to eliminate--in particular, the potlatch, a public ceremony where chiefs and other high-status individuals gave gifts to invited guests.
So, In the Land of the Head Hunters seemed like a great opportunity to the Kwakwaka'wakw. Dancing and singing for the camera would have been like sending a message in a bottle to future generations of their people.
For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.