CSU, Chico News

Classic Cultural Films Reissued by Anthropology Museum

Date: 02-21-2008

Kathleen McPartland
Public Affairs
Adrienne Scott
Anthropology Dept.
(530) 898-5397

The Museum of Anthropology at California State University, Chico is reissuing two ethnographic documentaries based on the fieldwork of anthropologist Valene Smith Posey and filmed by photographer and cinematographer Ira Latour. “Three Stone Blades” was filmed in 1970, and “Visual Pioneers of the 19th Century: The World of Theodore Wores” was filmed in 1981.

The films have been reconfigured in a DVD format. “These films are treasures, both in their beauty and their importance in telling two ethnographic stories,” said Adrienne Scott, curator of the Museum of Anthropology. “These stories would literally disappear without them. Reissuing them is part of our mission to be ambassadors of multicultural education and preservation.”

“Three Stone Blades” provides a window into the world of Arctic peoples, whose wilderness and frozen lands have already disappeared. Posey and Latour filmed the 1970 documentary in Point Hope, a remote Alaskan village that has gradually been flooded by melting ice. Posey had done fieldwork with the Inupiat in the area. Since then, area residents have been relocated, said Scott. Part of the purpose of the film was to record the last inhabited sod igloo supported by whale ribs in the North American Arctic.

“Three Stone Blades” dramatizes an Inupiat legend of the Bering Straits regions and reconstructs aboriginal Eskimo customs and values concerning family, reciprocal sharing and shamanism. It is the story of a starving wife who goes to her sister-in-law for food, and instead, the greedy sister-in-law gives her three stone blades. The brother finds out and leaves her to go help the starving family of his dead brother.

“Visual Pioneers of the 19th Century: The World of Theodore Wores” tells the story of Wores, a San Francisco artist (1859-1939) who studied art in Europe. He became an “ethnographer with a palette,” said Posey, who made the film in 1981. Wores painted subjects in Japan, in Samoa, in San Francisco’s Chinatown and among the Indian Pueblos of the American Southwest.

Wores was widely acclaimed by 1915 and became dean of the San Francisco Art Institute. However, said Posey, he disdained emerging “modern art,” withdrew from exhibitions and dropped off from public recognition. He continued to paint California landscapes.

Two posthumous exhibits were mounted at CSU, Chico in 1978 (Indian Pueblos) and 1979 (Japanese years). Posey’s film is an outgrowth of those exhibits, created as an art history documentary to re-establish Wores’ position as an important Impressionist and major contributor to the preservation of cultural heritage. This film has never been released to the public.

The films are available through the Museum of Anthropology for $25 each, or both for $40. For information, contact Scott at (530) 898-5397 or e-mail her at ascott@csuchico.edu.