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Posted: Mar 22, 2012 KEVIN NIKKEL INTERVIEW ABOUT NITRATE TREASURES
Source: North Country Public Radio.org
OSM member Kevin Nikkel is featured in this interview published on the North Country Public Radio website where his project Nitrate Treasures is discussed.
In 1919, two intrepid cameramen left New York City to trek across the Canadian North. Traveling by foot, canoe, dog sled and icebreaker they filmed scenes from Hudson's Bay Company communities for that sponsor's upcoming 250th anniversary.
The finished two-hour movie was seen in Canada the following year. But once "talkies" took hold, interest in silent film faded. The original footage ended up tucked away in England, largely forgotten.
A collaborative project has been working to recover the film's source material for Canadians and the world. Some of the best segments will be shown April 3rd in a screening booked at the Canadian Museum of Civilization. To learn more, Lucy Martin reached filmmaker and event organizer Kevin Nikkel in Winnipeg.
Kevin Nikkel: “The film from 1919 – it was like a commercial, in a way, and a birthday party at the same time. Because the company was celebrating, in 1920 would be the 250th. And so we see a lot of scenes where the folks who are portraying company officials arriving at Lake Harbour in Nunavut. And there are a number of scenes that are clearly staged events, and lots of handshakes and lots of smiles. But at the same time, there's a lot of scenes where we really get in and it's how do they do trapping? You know? What's it like to live on the trap line? And what's it like to try and travel by dog sled?
Some of that facade, it quickly falls away as we enter in and we just watch this journey that the filmmakers of '19 are on. It quickly transcends that commercial aspect of it. It's very engaging as a documentary – even though the intent, when it was released in 1920, was very much a celebration of the company and very much 'let's try to use this film to get people into our stores.'
Lucy Martin: Set the stage for that: two cameramen from New York City, went up for nine months? Did they have wilderness experience?
Kevin Nikkel: Harold Wycoff had done some trips across Russia. So he had some expedition experience, but not a lot of really rugged frontier experience. And so what the Hudson's Bay Company did, they tapped some of the most experienced company men to be the chaperones and the escorts to take the cameramen across the country. And Bill Dare was the second.
It really is quite amazing, the journey that they went on. To really get a feel for the type of travel, and the type of trade and the type of work. Some of the most striking footage in the silent film that we're showing at the Museum of Civilization is the 'journey' footage. Just spectacular footage of traveling by canoe and on the dogs sleds – it's just wonderful stuff. The interesting thing is though, that the “Romance of the Far Fur Country”, the original two-hour film, doesn't exist as a complete title, because different versions were created. We have all the pieces, but we don't have the actual two hour print right now. But we're in the process of re-creating it from the elements.
Find the rest of the interview HERE.