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Eskimo / Laughing Boy

Actors Ramon Novarro and Lupe Velez smiling and sharing bread.
February 2, 2024 - 7:30 pm
Introduction by curator Adam Piron.

Admission is free. No advance reservations. Your seat will be assigned to you when you pick up your ticket at the box office. Seats are assigned on a first come, first served basis. The box office opens one hour before the event.


U.S. 1933 

Filmed on location in then-Alaskan Territory, Eskimo (a descriptor now considered a racial slur) follows the life of Mala (Iñupiaq actor Ray Mala) and the everyday life of his community. After the death of one of his wives at the hands of corrupt fur traders, Mala exacts revenge and is forced to go on the run. Although a box office disappointment, W.S. Van Dyke’s motion picture received the first Oscar for Best Film Editing, and was also the first U.S. feature filmed in an Indigenous language, offering viewers today a unique look at early sound-era cinema’s experimentation with subtitles.

16mm, b&w, 117 min. Director: W.S. Van Dyke. Writer: John Lee Mahin, Peter Freuchen. With: Ray Mala.

Laughing Boy

U.S., 1934

Laughing Boy (Ramón Novarro), a Navajo silversmith, does his best to entertain and sell his wares to the hordes of grotesque American tourists who visit his reservation daily. He gains the affection of Slim Girl (Lupe Vélez), a Native woman raised by white people, who many in the tribe believe to be leading a life of sin in the nearby town. A doomed love triangle forms between her, Laughing Boy, and her white former lover that exposes the racism, exploitation and misogyny at the root of reservation border towns, Indian trading posts and the tourism they thrive on.

16mm, b&w, 79 min. Director: W.S. Van Dyke. Writer: John Colton, John Lee Mahin. With: Ramón Novarro, Lupe Vélez.

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