December 31, 2006

Hollywood's take on Eskimos

Freeze Frame:  Alaska Eskimos in the Movies

By Ann Fienup-RiordanFreeze Frame takes a penetrating, often humorous, look at how Eskimos have been portrayed in nearly a century of film, from the pioneering documentaries of missionaries and Arctic explorers to Eskimo Pie commercials of the 1990s. Some of these works are serious attempts to depict a culture; others are unabashed entertainment, featuring papier-maché igloos and zebra-skin parkas. Even filmmakers who sought authenticity were likely to build igloos in villages that had never seen one and to hire non-Native actors to portray the Eskimo principals.

The groundbreaking film Nanook of the North, released in 1922, solidified the popular impression of Eskimos and set the precedent for dozens of movies to follow. Freeze Frame documents the ideas that motivate and lie behind this abundant generation of images. The first study to look at the popular image of Alaska Eskimos, it makes an important contribution to our understanding of Native American stereotyping.
Comment:  Interesting-sounding book that I hadn't heard of until now.


Not a Sioux said...

A very interesting book I read earlier this year is "The Swarm". It is one of those Chrichtonesque science-thriller blockbusters. There are several main characters, but the most important one happens to be a Native (Innuit) from far northern Canada. His background and his thoughts about his "identity" are important to the book.

Uma Thurman has optioned this to be a movie, and it ls likely to be a big deal and subject in the future of "Hollywood's take on Eskimos".

Rob said...

Right, you told me about this book. It's on my wish list and I plan to get it eventually.

Anonymous said...

The University of Washington also runs the Native Voices Center of Indigenous Media. They've produced some of the best groundbreaking documentaries in recent years.

NativeVue will be having a feature on the Center in the coming weeks. Take a look at their list of films on their website:

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
And the picture is about to get more complicated. As in years past, the Hawaiian Natives pushed for a Bureau of Native Hawaiian Affairs in 2006 and for their rights to be honored under the treaties that exist(ed) between their people and the US Government. Oddly, members of Congress for the first time paid at least more than lip service to these demands and, with the majorities shifting away from the Bush Administration, things may begin to happen. Now, can anyone tell writerfella if this good, bad, or indifferent?
All Best
Russ Bates