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.


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: