December 03, 2008

Curtis film with indigenous orchestra

The Coast Orchestra:  Indians Make Beautiful MusicOn Friday night, November 14th, at the American Museum of Natural History here in the NYC the Margaret Mead Film Festival began it’s program with a screening of a restored print of controversial photographer Edward S Curtis’ In the Land of the Head Hunters. The film was accompanied by an all-indigenous live orchestra put together by violinist, Laura Ortman.

A slide show and opening presentation by the descendants of the original cast preceded the screening. It was quite touching to hear the positive words of the current chief of the Kwakwakaa’wakw people who were Curtis’ collaborators in the film. He expressed gratitude for the film’s resurrection and the exhibition to a near capacity crowd in New York City. I was surprised to hear him say as much considering many believe, myself included, that Curtis’ work with the native people of North America was exploitative. However if you could see your great great uncle when he was a young strappin’ man dancing around a prayer fire in a vintage print, even if a jingoistic quasi-racist white man made it, I guess you’d have a different opinion.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Native Documentaries and News.

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