Coming to Light: Edward S. Curtis and the North American Indians

American History, Art, Anthropology, Indigenous Cultures, Native American
Anne Makepeace
85 minutes


*Best Documentary Telluride Mountain Film
*Official Selection Sundance Film Festival Feature Documentary Competition
*Feature Documentary Finalist Academy Awards
*Gold Hugo Chicago International Film Festival
*Best Documentary Hardacre Film Festival
*Audience Award Best Documentary Newport Film Festival
*Best Documentary Saguaro International Film Festival
*Best Documentary New Jersey International Film Festival
*Official Selection Munich International Film Festival

"Remarkable, a fascinating and thorough look at a photographer whose 40,000 images recorded Native American life."- Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

"A beautifully crafted epic..."- David Ansen, Newsweek

"A phenomenal film. Well crafted, intelligent, and beautiful to behold...brings historical depth and cultural context to our understanding of Curtis' photographs and his monographs on Native Americans...- Julia Thompson, Professor of Anthropology, Mount Holyoke College


Coming to Light tells the dramatic story of Edward S. Curtis, a complicated, passionate, self-educated pioneer and visionary artist who set out in 1900 to document traditional Indian life before it was gone. He created an astonishing body of work: thousand of wax recordings, a full length motion picture with Kwakiutl people, twenty volumes of text, and forty thousand photographs.

Coming to Light explores the often controversial nature of Curtis' romantic images, and the meaning they have for Native Americans today. In the documentary, Hopi, Navajo, Cupig, Blackfeet, Piegan, Crow, Suquamish, Kwakiutl and Gros Ventre people, descendants of Curtis's photographic subjects, tell stories about the people in the pictures, and describe ways in which they are using the photographs to revive their own traditions in the modern world.



Anne Makepeace

Anne Makepeace has been a writer, producer, and director of award-winning independent films for more than twenty years. She is currently working on a documentary about the return of the Wampanoag language, the first time a language with no native speakers has been revived in an American Indian community. The project was awarded a development grant from the Sundance Documentary Fund late in 2007, and Makepeace recently received both a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Radcliffe Institute Fellowship in support of the project. She is also finishing a documentary about the architect I. M. Pei and his recently completed Suzhou Museum, entitled BUILDING CHINA MODERN.

Her most recent completed work, a feature documentary entitled RAIN IN A DRY LAND, chronicles the journey of two Somali Bantu refugee families from Africa through their first two years in America. In 2005, Makepeace completed a short film about the indomitable Eleanor Roosevelt. n 2003, Makepeace completed ROBERT CAPA IN LOVE AND WAR for the American Masters series. The film premiered at Sundance and was broadcast nationally on the American Masters series on PBS, on the BBC, and on many other foreign stations, winning a national prime time Emmy as well as the Voice for Humanity Award at Telluride MountainFilm.

Makepeace also wrote the screenplay for the successful THOUSAND PIECES OF GOLD, an American Playhouse Theatrical feature, and the American Experience documentary ISHI, THE LAST YAHI. She wrote, produced and directed the dramatic films NIGHT DRIVING, starring William Sadler, for Showtime Networks, Inc.; WILDEST DREAMS starring William Petersen and Rebecca Jenkins; MOONCHILD, an award-winning docudrama broadcast nationally on PBS about a religious cult; and WHISTLE IN THE WIND, a bi-lingual short drama about a Bolivian boy and his llama.

Anne Makepeace has twice been a writer/director fellow at the Sundance Institute's June laboratory, and served on the Sundance 2001 Film Festival's documentary jury. Her work has been funded by the Pulitzer Foundation, the Sundance Documentary Fund, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting , ITVS, the NEA, the NEH, the Ford Foundation, American Masters, Showtime Networks Inc., HBO, A&E, and the American Film Institute.


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