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The Prize of the Pole

A Film by Staffan Julén

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This documentary combines biography and history as it accompanies the Inuit hunter Hivshu, a.k.a. Robert E. Peary II, on a quest to trace the story of his great grandfather and his other ancestors, including the Eskimo family the famous Arctic explorer brought back with him to New York as part of an exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History in 1897.

THE PRIZE OF THE POLE uses archival footage, photos and audio recordings to chronicle Peary's exploration of the Arctic over more than twenty years and his still controversial 1909 claim to be the first man to reach the North Pole. The film also explores the activities of Peary and Franz Boas, the "father" of American anthropology, who viewed the Eskimos as barbarians, as "living fossils" for scientific study, focusing on the fate of the six Eskimos who traveled to New York with Peary, including the sole survivor, Minik, a six-year-old boy.

Peary's great-grandson meets with tribal elders in Greenland, who recount ancient stories of the Arctic explorer's extended expeditions, his fathering of two children with an Inuit woman, and the often unethical zeal with which he pursued his scientific interests in the region and its people. In New York he meets with officials at the American Museum of Natural History and The Explorers Club, and another of Peary's grandsons, who reveal more details about Peary's expeditions and the tragic fate of Minik.

film still

Along the way Robert E. Peary II visits research libraries and other historical sites in an effort to learn the truth about mysteries surrounding the preservation of his ancestors' skeletons and brains. At the end of his own exploration, having discovered a darker side of his legendary great-grandfather, especially the human price that was paid for one man to realize his dream, Hivshu proudly reclaims his native name.

"The sweep of this film is prodigous… For those with a passion for the Arctic, THE PRIZE OF THE POLE-which took Best Expedition Film at the 2008 Explorers Club Film Festival-is a must-see."-Carl. G. Schuster, The Explorers Journal

★★★ 1/2 "The story [Hivshu] presents about his doomed countrymen is a genuine tragedy, characterized by racism in the name of science. A well-made and often poignant documentary, THE PRIZE OF THE POLE is highly recommended."—P. Hall, Video Librarian

"Graphics and editing are first rate… a valuable addition to college anthropology and Native American Studies departments and libraries… Highly and enthusiastically recommended."—Charles Burkart, Educational Media Reviews Online

" The human element of [THE PRIZE OF THE POLE] makes it an engaging experience which reflects on human rights issues in a historical context while making connections to contemporary society. In an elegant and moving way the film brings many themes together. It takes us on a personal journey which comments on anthropology, colonialism and multi-culturalism. It's a film which deserves an international audience."—Copenhagan Dox Jury Statement

"A deeply fascinating story about human failure and encroachment, I never will forget it."—Tony Fischier, Goteborgs-Posten

"An intensely touching documentary, with international class."—Jenny Ornborn, SCity

"A terrific documentary that's about the race to be the first to reach the North Pole, but it's also about much more—it's about colonialsm and Western indifference to other cultures."—Globe and Mail

"Elegantly photographed and narrated… brings together many themes… I highly recommended this film."—Clarence J. Murphy, Science Books & Films

2008 Best Expedition Film at the Explorers Club Film Festival
Amnesty Award, 2007 Copenhagen Dox Festival
2007 DocAviv International Documentary Festival
2007 Planete Doc Review International Festival
2007 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival
2006 Odense International Documentary Film Festival

78 minutes / Color
English subtitles
Release: 2007
Copyright: 2006

For individual consumers (home video)

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This DVD is sold with a license for institutional use and Public Performance rights.

Subject areas:
American Studies, Anthropology, Arctic, Canadian Studies, Closed Captioned, Environment, Exploration, Geography, History (U.S.), Indigenous Peoples, Multi-Cultural Studies

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