by Mike Martz

Special screenings of the digital restoration of the award winning documentary film Uksuum Cauyai: The Drums of Winter will be held at the Community Hall in Emmonak Wednesday May 10th at 7pm and at Yupiit Piciryarait Cultural Center in Bethel on Friday May 12th at 6pm.

Shot in Emmonak 40 years ago in the spring of 1977, by filmmakers Sarah Elder and Len Kamerling, Uksuum Cauyai tells the story of potlatching and dancing between Emmonak and Alakanuk and the changes to dance culture over the 100 years prior to the production. The film is unusual in that it is a collaborative filmmaking effort with the villagers of Emmonak; the residents speak for themselves in the film and advised the filmmakers throughout production and post-production. The film was released in 1988.

Uksuum Cauyai has won numerous awards including at the American Film Festival, the International Arctic Film Festival and the Margaret Mead Film Festival. It was added to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry in 2006 in recognition of its significant value to American culture.

Len Kamerling, professor at UAF Museum of the North and co-Producer/Director of the film, will be present at the screening event to discuss the film’s production history with the audience. Bob Curtis-Johnson of SummitDay Media will describe the film’s extensive preservation process that included a full photochemical restoration to polyester film stock from the original elements as well as a 2K digital scan and color restoration for digital cinema presentation. At the Bethel event, retired KuC professor Cecilia Martz will discuss the film’s significance to Yup’ik culture.

This digital restoration was also screened at BNC’s Suurvik Theater in Bethel on May 6th and 7th.

The UKSUUM CAUYAI film preservation project was made possible with contributions from the National Film Preservation Foundation, the Rasmuson Foundation, SummitDay Media, University of Alaska Museum of the North, Donlin Gold, KYUK-TV and Chase Audio by Deluxe.

Mike Martz is an archives technician at SummitDay Media in Anchorage.