Kirk French

is creating "A Century After Nanook" and other community based documentaries

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About Kirk French

 Hello,

I’m Kirk French, a professor of anthropology and filmmaker based in central Pennsylvania. As an anthropologist, my research has always focused on the interplay between humans and their environments. My film projects are no exception. I am interested in revisiting older documentaries, returning to the location they were produced, and document the changes that have occurred – both environmentally and culturally. These are community centered projects that cannot and will not happen without a strong local collaboration.

Our last film, Land and Water Revisited, was just that. Without the unyielding support of the Teotihuacan Valley community, that project would still just be an idea. But thanks to our Mexican collaborators, you can now stream the film on PBS.org.

The current project has moved a bit further north than central Mexico. We are now here in the Arctic, where the effects of global warming are more amplified than anywhere else on the planet. This rapidly changing environment has forced many of these communities to drastically alter their traditional way of life.

It is often discussed how climate change is pushing many species to extinction, yet many cultures face a similar fate. Few places is this more evident than the small Inuit village of Inukjuak on the east coast of Hudson Bay in northern Canada. Although the town is not well-known by name, 100 years ago the people of Inukjuak played a role that continues to influence people’s lives throughout the world. They were the co-creators of the first documentary film.

In August of 1920, an aspiring American filmmaker traveled to Inukjuak to begin documenting the daily life and struggles of an Inuk man named Allakariallak and his family. Almost two years later, on June 11, 1922, Robert Flaherty premiered his completed film – Nanook of the North: A Story of Life and Love in the Actual Arctic at the Capitol Theatre in New York City. From hunting walrus to constructing an igloo, the project is an early example of ethnographic film (albeit often staged). Nanook was the first significant non-fiction film ever released. Its immediate success added a new category to the domain of motion pictures – the documentary. In 1989, Nanook of the North was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Archives by the Library of Congress.

I began collaborating with the Inuit of Inukjuak in November of 2019 with the goal of revisiting this iconic film on its 100th anniversary. The end product will be a documentary that centers on the voices and perspectives of the Indigenous people of area. Through a combination of archival footage from 1920-21, interviews with local inhabitants and climate change scientists, we are investigating the drastic environmental and cultural changes that have taken place in the region over the last 100 years.

Due to the pandemic, my initial trips were delayed until July 2021. We did however ship camera equipment to our Inuit colleagues in August of 2020 so that our start date would coincide with Flaherty’s on August 15, 1920.

The next phase of the project is to assist with organizing the Nanook Centennial Celebration Event that will take place in the village of Inukjuak on June 11, 2022 - exactly 100 years from the premiere of Nanook in New York City.

If this is the type of project that you believe in and are fortunate enough to have the financial flexibility, please consider becoming a Patreon supporter. The funds will be used to help cover the cost of travel for filming and research. Although I have received several grants for A Century After Nanook, and many proposals are currently pending, additional funds will be needed.

As a Patreon supporter you will receive exclusive updates about my projects as they progress, as well as behind the scenes videos. There will be a few different funding tiers and those details are outlined on my Patreon page.
Thanks for making it this far. I’ll end with this. I find it all consuming to deal with the daily barrage of news. From the pandemic, to global warming, to what could be an impending American civil war…it’s hard sometimes to just keep going. But for me…moving forward and trying to make a change seems like the most reasonable option. It seems like the only option. It’s the only path that gives me the strength to look into my daughter’s eyes.
Let’s make a change together. Cheers.



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