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State Theatre To Screen World’s ‘First Documentary’ As It Turns 100

“Nanook of the North,” the world’s first feature-length documentary film, is turning 100 on June 11. In honor of this big accomplishment, Kirk French, a professor in the department of anthropology here at Penn State, is collaborating with State Theatre to host a screening of the full film at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 25.

French is also an anthropologist and filmmaker who is currently working on his own project revisiting the iconic film. He is organizing the Nanook Centennial Celebration Event that will take place in the Canadian village of Inukjuak on June 11.

The Indigenous communities of the Arctic are currently experiencing the most dramatic effects of climate change on our planet and have been since the film first premiered in New York City almost a century ago. This rapidly changing environment has forced many of these communities to drastically alter their traditional way of life by modifying their hunting and fishing strategies, their dietary choices, and even their modes of transportation.

In August 1920, an aspiring American filmmaker traveled to Inukjuak to begin documenting the daily life and struggles of an Inuk man and his family. Shortly after the trip, “Nanook of the North: A Story of Life and Love in the Actual Arctic” became the first non-fiction film ever documented.

Almost a century later, French began working with the Inuit of Inukjuak in November 2019 with the goal of revisiting the film with his own perspective and spin on its 100th anniversary. The end product of his project will be a documentary that centers on the voices and perspectives of the indigenous people of the area. His project consists of archival footage from the early 1920s and interviews with local inhabitants and climate change scientists.

French shared that he has seen the documentary several times, but this will be his first time watching it in a theatre with an audience.

Following the screening, French will host a Q&A session where students and faculty are welcome to ask any questions pertaining to the film and his experiences. The audience will also have the opportunity of being introduced to his project, “A Century After Nanook“.

Here’s a preview of Kirk French’s project. Tickets for the screening cost $6.50 for the general audience and $3.50 for students. To purchase tickets, go to State Theatre’s website.

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About the Author

Evan Halfen

Evan Halfen is a first-year student at Penn State from Newark, Delaware and is studying broadcast journalism. Evan loves all things Penn State, tailgating, being loud, just about any beach, and his puppies, Butterscotch and Wentzy.

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