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Films on Ice

Cinemas of the Arctic

Edited by Scott MacKenzie, Anna Westerstahl Stenport

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A comprehensive study of films made in a region of the world central to its future: The Arctic

The first book to address the vast diversity of Northern circumpolar cinemas from a transnational perspective, Films on Ice: Cinemas of the Arctic presents the region as one of great and previously overlooked cinematic diversity. With chapters on polar explorer films, silent cinema, documentaries, ethnographic and indigenous film, gender and ecology, as well as Hollywood and the USSR’s uses and abuses of the Arctic, this book provides a groundbreaking account of Arctic cinemas from 1898 to the present. Challenging dominant notions of the region in popular and political culture, it demonstrates how moving images (cinema, television, video, and digital media) have been central to the very definition of the Arctic since the end of the nineteenth century. Bringing together an international array of European, Russian, Nordic, and North American scholars, Films on Ice radically alters stereotypical views of the Arctic region, and therefore of film history itself.


  • Marco Bohr is a photographer, academic and researcher in visual culture. He received his PhD from the University of Westminster in 2011 and was appointed Lecturer in Visual communication at Loughborough University in 2012.
  • Marian Bredin is Associate Professor in the Department of Communication, Popular Culture and Film, at Brock University in Canada.
  • Lyubov Bugaeva is Dr hab. in Philology and Associate Professor at St Petersburg State University, Russia.
  • Marina Dahlquist is an Associate Professor of Cinema Studies at the Department of Media Studies at Stockholm University.
  • Jan Anders Diesen is Professor of Film History at Lillehammer University College, Norway.
  • Ann Fienup-Riordan is a cultural anthropologist and independent scholar who has lived and worked in Alaska since 1973.
  • Rebecca Genauer is a film studies PhD candidate at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
  • Sabine Henlin-Strømme received her PhD from the Department of Cinema and Comparative Literature at the University of Iowa in 2012. She currently teaches French at the Bergen Community College.
  • Caroline Forcier Holloway is an Audio-Visual Archivist at Library and Archives Canada.
  • Johanne Haaber Ihle holds a BA degree in Arabic from the University of Copenhagen and a MA degree in Visual Anthropology from the University of Manchester.
  • Gunnar Iversen is Professor of Film Studies in the Department of Art and Media Studies at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
  • Anne Mette Jørgensen has an MA in anthropology and is a PhD candidate at the Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen and the National Museum of Denmark.
  • Pietari Kääpä is a Lecturer in Media and Communications at the Department of Communications, Media and Culture, University of Stirling.
  • Lill-Ann Körber, Dr phil., is an Assistant Professor at the Nordeuropa-Institut, Humboldt-Universitat zu Berlin.
  • Eva la Cour holds a degree from the Jutland Art Academy in Denmark and from Media & Visual Anthropology at Freie Universitat in Berlin. Currently she is artist-in-residence at Global High-Schools in Denmark, teaching the course ‘Mediating the Arctic’.
  • Helga Hlaðgerður Lúthersdóttir holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from University of Colorado, Boulder. She currently runs the Icelandic BA Programme at the Department of Scandinavian Studies, University College London.
  • Scott MacKenzie teaches film and media at Queen’s University, where he is cross-appointed to the Graduate Program in Cultural Studies, and a Visiting Research Associate at the Danish Film Institute (2013–17).
  • Monica Kim Mecsei is a PhD candidate in the Department of Art and Media Studies at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
  • Sarah Neely is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Arts and Humanities at the University of Stirling, where she is a member of the Centre for Scottish Studies and the Centre for Gender and Feminist Studies.
  • Björn Norðfjörð is an Associate Professor in Film Studies at the University of Iceland.
  • Russell A. Potter writes about the depiction of the Arctic the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and teaches English and Media Studies at Rhode Island College.
  • Mark Sandberg is Professor of Film and Scandinavian Studies at the University of California-Berkeley.
  • Oksana Sarkisova, PhD, is Associate Researcher at Central European University working on the issues of socialist cultural history, memory and representation, film history and amateur photography.
  • Daria Shembel earned her PhD in Slavic Studies and Film from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. Since 2005 she has been teaching European Studies, New Media and Film at San Diego State University.
  • Anna Westerståhl Stenport (PhD, University of California, Berkeley) is Associate Professor of Scandinavian Studies and Media and Cinema Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a visiting research associate at the Danish Film Institute (2013–17).
  • Kirsten Thisted is an Associate Professor at Copenhagen University, Institute of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, Minority Studies Section.
  • Ebbe Volquardsen is a Doctoral Fellow at Justus-Liebig-Universitat Giessen (Germany).


Introduction: What Are Arctic Cinemas?

Part I. Global Indigeneity
1. ‘Who Were We? And What Happened to Us?’: Inuit Memory and Arctic Futures in Igloolik Isuma Film and Video
2. Northern Exposures and Marginal Critiques: The Politics of Sovereignty in Sami Cinema
3. Frozen in Film: Alaska Eskimos in the Movies
4. Cultural Stereotypes and Negotiations in Sami Cinema
5. Cinema of Emancipation and Zacharias Kunuk’s Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner
6. Cosmopolitan Inuit: New Perspectives on Greenlandic Film
7. Arctic Carnivalesque: Ethnicity, Gender and Transnationality in the Films of Tommy Wirkola

Part II. Hollywood Hegemony
8. Fact and Fiction in ‘Northerns’ and ‘Early Arctic Films’
9. California’s Yukon as Comic Space
10. ‘See the Crashing Masses of White Death…’: Greenland, Germany, and the Sublime in the ‘Bergfilm’ SOS Eisberg
11. The Threat of the Thaw: The Cold War on the Screen
12. Hollywood Does Iceland: Authenticity, Genericity and the Picturesque
13. White on White: Twenty-First Century Norwegian Horror Films Negotiate Masculinist Arctic Imaginaries

Part III. Ethnography and the Documentary Dilemma
14. The Creative Treatment of Alterity: Nanook as the North
15. From Objects to Actors: Knud Rasmussen’s Ethnographic Feature Film The Wedding of Palo
16. Arctic Travelogues: Conquering the Soviet North
17. A Gentle Gaze on the Colony: Jette Bang’s Documentary Filming in Greenland 1938–9
18. Exercise Musk-Ox: The Challenges of Filming a Military Expedition in Canada’s Arctic
19. The Tour: A Film About Longyearbyen, Svalbard. An Interview with Eva la Cour

Part IV. Myths and Modes of Exploration
20. The Changing Polar Films: Silent Films from Arctic Exploration 1900 – 1930
21. The Attractions of the North: Early Film Expeditions to the Exotic Snowscape
22. Frozen in Motion: Ethnographic Representation in Donald B. MacMillan’s Arctic Films
23. ‘My Heart Beat for the Wilderness’: Exploring with the Camera in the Work of Isobel Wylie Hutchison, Jenny Gilbertson, Margaret Tait, and other Twentieth-Century Scottish Women Filmmakers
24. ‘Here will be a Garden-City’: Soviet Man on an Arctic Construction Site
25. Transcending the Sublime: Arctic Creolisation in the Works of Isaac Julien and John Akomfrah
26. DJ Spooky and Dziga Vertov: Experimental Cinema Meets Digital Art in Exploring Polar Regions


About the Author

Scott MacKenzie teaches in the Department of Film and Media, and is cross-appointed to the Graduate Program in Cultural Studies, at Queen’s University, Canada.

Anna Westerståhl Stenport is Associate Professor of Scandinavian Studies and Media and Cinema Studies, and Director of the European Union Center, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


'Gathering leading scholars across the three continents meeting in the Arctic, MacKenzie and Stenport open up the utopian, dystopian and heterotopian dimensions of Arctic film, a shimmering, crystalline view not only on the contest over the meanings of polar space, but onto the possibilities for reconceptualising world cinema.'

- Sean Cubitt, Goldsmiths, University of London

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