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Restored 1919 Film Gives Rare Historic Glimpse of Arctic Life in Canada

Still from 1919 film Romance of the Far Fur Country (Photo courtesy of the Hudson's Bay Company Archives)

Some of the earliest footage of northern Canada—a silent black-and-white film documenting a 1919 Hudson Bay Company expedition—has been restored to a full-length documentary. The film had been gathering dust in a London archive for 50 years but was recently restored and is being shown in select Canadian towns and cities. (See clips of the original footage.)

The Romance of the Far Fur Country first premiered in 1920 at Winnipeg’s Allen Theatre (now the Metropolitan Theatre and a national historic site); the film followed fur traders for six months across northern Canada and provides some insight into the daily lives of Arctic people. It shows HBC expeditioners dog-sledding in northern Alberta, canoeing rapids in northern Ontario and meeting with Inuit representatives on Nunavut’s Baffin Island.

Though the film was a promotional tool for the Hudson’s Bay Company’s 250th anniversary at the time, it is now something of a national treasure, as it was the first time most of these regions of Canada had been filmed.

The newly re-released film has been shown in Edmonton and in small towns near native Canadian communities in northern Alberta and will screen in Winnipeg on February 15, 2012. Check the Return of the Far Fur Country Project blog for possible upcoming screenings in other cities.

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