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Best known as one of the premier photographers of the 20th century, Edward S. Curtis devoted his life to documenting the disappearing world of the American Indian.In this film, originally entitled IN THE LAND OF THE HEADHUNTERS, Curtis retold a tribal story of love and revenge among the Kwakiutl Indians of Vancouver Island.Curtis spent three years with the Kwakuitl to meticulously recreate their way of life before the white man came.In addition to the magnificent painted war canoes of the title, the film features wonderful native costumes, dancing and rituals - including a powerful scene of a vision quest.
In 1972, the only surviving print of this film was carefully restored and an original score of music and chants was recorded by the Kwakiutls themsleves.Although some of the material suffers from nitrate damage due to its age,IN THE LAND OF THE WAR CANOES still presents a magnificent image of a lost world.