The last few months have been focused on the reconstruction of the Romance of the Far Fur Country footage. I’m pleased with how things are coming along, with the editorial support from co-producer Chris Nikkel, and visual historian Peter Geller. The feature film is starting to emerge from the hours of materials returned from the British Film Institute in London to the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives in Winnipeg. Fundraising to complete the restoration is on-going; I hope to announce some further sponsors soon. Our goal is to finish the restoration by the end of this year.
The editing of the documentary, “On the Trail of the Far Fur Country“, telling the story of this lost film, is also progressing. It is exciting to look over the footage from our travels this past year to the same locations where the archival filmmakers travelled in 1919-1920. The latest development on the project, I’ve been awarded a two-week artistic residency by the Manitoba Arts Council at their Deep Bay Cabin in Riding Mountain National Park. I anticipate these two weeks will allow for sustained focus on the editing. If you are anywhere near Riding Mountain, come out to a film screening at the park’s visitor’s centre on June 8 in Wasagaming. A big thanks to the Manitoba Arts Council for their support in granting me two weeks of solitude for editing.
Other events on the horizon, Chris Nikkel will be presenting the 30 minute Treasure From the Far Fur Country film program in Scotland in July at Fort William. In August, Peter Geller and I will join film studies researcher Roswitha Skare on a panel discussing Romance of the Far Fur Country and Nanook of the North at the Visible Evidence documentary film conference in Stockholm, Sweden.
Upcoming film screening details:
-Wasagaming, Manitoba: June 8, 2pm, Visitor’s Centre
-Fort William, Scotland: July 6, 2pm, Scotland Screen Machine
-Swedish Film Institute, Stockholm Sweden: August 15-18
Some great responses from our community screenings of the Far Fur Country footage the last month.
In Alberta we returned to the Ft. McMurray Heritage Park for a screening, and in Ft Chipewyan to the Ft Chipewyan Municipal Building with help from the Ft Chipewyan Bicentennial Museum. We made some great connections with elders, and teachers at both of these events.
From Alberta, there was a quick trip to Abottsford BC to present at the University of the Fraser Valley, home to collaborator Peter Geller. Nice to visit Stephanie Gould’s documentary film class too.
On our Ontario tour, we visited University of Western Ontario in London, thanks to the invitation of Juan Bello in the Film Studies department and then up to the Bluewater Outdoor Education Centre in Wiarton, Ontario, thanks to the invitation of Deborah Diebel.
Our first screening in the UK was held at the Glasgow Film Festival Feb 22. The festival arranged for some traditional Scottish fiddle music to accompany the 30 minutes of film, followed by a presentation by project c0-producer Chris Nikkel.
It has been a busy schedule touring the film program. Looking forward to the coming months of editing back in Winnipeg.
It has been a busy few months with the Far Fur Country project. Here is a quick update on our Alberta visit this month.
In January, Kevin Nikkel and camera operator Ryan Herdman travelled back to northern Alberta to visit Fort McMurray and Fort Chipewyan to continue the community screenings and filming for our documentary. It was good to see friends we’d met on previous visits. We appreciated the support of the Ft McMurray Heritage Park and the Ft Chipewyan Bicentennial Museum and were happy to screen footage from the Romance of the Far Fur Country with their help. We had a fascinating time filming with Joe Gauthier on his trapline, Charlie Cardinal ice fishing, and with Robert Grandejambe out with his dog sleds. All of these scenes provide a tremendous visual contrast to the archival film footage from 1919.
By a stroke of good fortune, we were able to tag along with a teacher’s inservice day focusing on building cultural awareness for teachers. We screened the film footage for the teachers and elders, and were able to film the demonstrations of traditional activities such as ice fishing and beaver trapping.
With our primary community visits completed we are now continuing the editing process. This includes the curatorial editing of the Romance of the Far Fur Country, and the documentary editing of On the Trail of the Far Fur Country. We’ll be posting more updates in the coming months.
In November, at the Snow Walkers’ Rendezvous in Fairlee, Vermont, Sue and I attended Kevin Nikkel’s presentation, “Treasures from the Far Fur Country”. Included in his lecture was video footage extracted from archival 35mm silver nitrate film used to create the silent motion picture, The Romance of the Far Fur Country. These video files, restored in a painstaking frame-by-frame process, were employed, in conjunction with diaries from the film’s crewmembers, to recreate the 1920 film.
About 115 attendees at this limited registration event were captivated by the 30 minutes of footage Kevin shared with us. As the Snow Walkers’ name suggests, we share a common attraction – winter travel. However, the preview was quite diverse in activities shown and it was fascinating to observe how the audience recognized various elements unique to their particular specialized interests. One can learn lots about a topic (be it dog personalities or documentaries) by taking note of the reactions of others to the topic. And during both Kevin’s Friday evening offering to the entire group and then at Saturday morning’s heavily attended break out session (one of about a half dozen to choose from), it was clear that this documentary had the broad appeal to mesmerize everyone. We Inuit Dog enthusiasts were captivated by images of early dogs and dog team travel. For others it was the tools and techniques of beaver trapping and ice fishing. Still others were keen to learn more about the actual process of digitizing extremely dangerous silver nitrate film. Some viewers were haunted by the scene of sad-faced Inuit children dressed in western garb moving along in a line while attending government (or missionary) mandated school.
Sometimes a project evolves beyond what was originally intended. And that seems to apply here. When completed, what Kevin and his colleagues will have accomplished will be more than just recreating Romance of the Fan Fur Country, originally made to celebrate the Hudson’s Bay Company’s 250-year presence in Canada. They will have also preserved a sociological, anthropological and archeological goldmine. The restored film isn’t some Hollywood creation with actors pretending to be people from the early 1900s. What you will see on screen are actual people from the early 1900s, doing what they did in the early 1900s, in the actual places where they lived and worked. The people and the places are all real. The lives being lived and everything that went into that are all real. It’s a remarkable opportunity to witness details of a bygone era.
Mark & Sue Hamilton / The Fan Hitch
Return of the Far Fur Country’s Chris Nikkel writes in the December issue of the The Walrus:
Reel Life: Screening one of Canada’s oldest documentaries on the shores of Alert Bay, Fieldnote By Chris Nikkel
You can tell Wayne Alfred is at work by the smoke rising form the stovepipe above his carving workshop on the shores of Alert Bay, BC, on Cormorant Island. When I visit, tables, tools, and books are all out in the open air. Alfred and his Kwakwaka’wakw apprentices are taking advantage of the long August evenings…
In September we were excited to travel to Nunavut to screen and give presentations on the Far Fur Country project. The highlight was traveling to Kimmirut, formerly Lake Harbour where the HBC had filmed extensive scenes in 1919 for the Romance of the Far Fur Country. It was amazing to see the contrasts between what we’d seen in the footage, and how the community has grown and changed over the decades. A happy coincidence while we were in Kimmirut, the yearly sea lift arrived, bringing a shipment by barge from a cargo ship off shore, a great contrast to the archival footage of the arrival of the Nascopie to Lake Harbour in 1919.
The contrasting views of Kimmirut in 1919 and 2012:
Other screening locations last month included Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet, Flin Flon and Toronto. The response was excellent.
Special thanks to Nunavut Film Development Corporation for supporting the Iqaluit screening; the Hamlet of Kimmirut for supporting our screening at their Akavak Centre; the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies and the Arctic Research Cluster for supporting the York University event; and thanks also to Manitoba Aboriginal and Northern Affairs & the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives/Archives of Manitoba for supporting events in Rankin Inlet and Flin Flon.
The last time I attended TIFF was in 1983 because a friend of mine had helped a friend of his out by appearing as an extra in a movie! It was not a particularly memorable film.
TOMORROW (FRIDAY’S) EVENT WILL BE BETTER THAN THAT AND BETTER THAN SCRAMBLING FOR TIFF TICKETS – come to Nat Taylor Cinema (Ross North 126) tomorrow night, for an event organized by Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies, and supported by IRIS, to see Return of the Far Fur Country, featuring rare archival footage shot in First Nations communities in 1920, by cinematographers from the Hudson’s Bay Company, to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the venerable company (founded in 1670)….
Read the rest of the blog here:
Any Toronto cinema and fur trade enthusiasts take note, we are screening the Treasures From the Far Fur Country at York University on Friday Sept 14th.
The viewing at York will also feature a panel that will discuss the implications and impacts of resource extraction and climate change in the Canadian Arctic. We look forward to seeing you there!
Where: Nat Taylor Cinema (Ross North 126, York University, Keele Campus)
When: Friday 14 September, 7-9 pm
Cost: $5 (or pay what you can) [seating is limited!]
Who: Brought to you by the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies and the Arctic Research Cluster at York University
Here is a brief update on our travels to BC earlier in the month to screen archival footage from the Romance of the Far Fur Country. Chris Nikkel is preparing an extended narrative of the trip, but this will do for now.
Vancouver, July 31, 2012
The tour of the Romance of the Far Fur Country footage traveled west this summer with a great turn out to the Vancouver screening on July 31st. This was my first time at the VanCity Theatre, the home of the Vancouver International Film Festival. Tom Charity made us feel at home. After the screening 30 minutes of excerpts from Romance, Peter Geller joined me on stage to give a brief talk about the context of the film, followed by a Q&A.
Victoria, August 1, 2012:
Our Victoria screening brought us to the Cinecenta Theatre on the campus of University of Victoria. The event was co-sponsored by the Victoria Historical Society and the Friends of the BC Archives. Peter Geller again joined me for the presentation/Q&A afterwards.
The event was very well attended, followed by another spirited discussions about the archival images, particularly the Alert Bay sequences.
Alert Bay, August 1-4, 2012
The drive north from Victoria took us 5 hours to reach the ferry terminal of Port McNeil. From there we travelled by ferry to Alert Bay on Cormorant Island. The afternoon screening at the U’mista Cultural Centre in Alert Bay was well attended and warmly received.
Happy to have had writer/collaborator Chris Nikkel along for these screenings & shooting dates, as well as Winnipeg shooter Ryan Herdman giving us gorgeous visuals for our documentary.
A big thank you to the local groups that supported and hosted this leg of the tour: the Victoria Historical Society and the Friends of the BC Archives, as well as the U’mista Cultural Centre, Vancouver International Film Festival’s Vancity Theatre, Cinecenta Theatre in Victoria, and the University of the Fraser Valley, which supported Peter Geller’s involvement.
Thanks also to the Canada Council for the Arts, Winnipeg Arts Council, Manitoba Arts Council, and Manitoba Film & Music for their contributions to the project.