The people of Greenland, who have a fondness for all kinds of storytelling, welcomed film media - but just like the rest of the world, it was met with some scepticism.

East Greenland saw its first film in 1930 during Knud Rasmussen's filming of Palos Brudefærd (1934). The cast needed to know what they were involved in and, therefore, his secretary had to show a film.

Greenland's first encounter with film media

The year is 1921 and Greenland has its first royal visit. On board is a film camera, which is left behind in Nuuk, and it is used here until 1934. Just like all other places in the world when people were introduced to the moving picture, it was an experience of magic and wizardry. Up to 1950, the Greenland ship "Umanak" had a narrow-gauge film camera on board and thanks to dentist, Baaregaard's, official dentist visits along the entire west coast, 8 mm films of American footage were shown, his own footage as well as some Mickey Mouse footage that he had brought along.

Everyone had to see and understand

Anyone could go down to the local notice board and see what was on the programme. If there was no Greenlandic explanation about the film, you could be certain that a summary or an explanation was given before the film started. In some towns, up to two films per week were shown. But Qaanaaq in northern Greenland received a minor reprimand from the Filmcentralen (Film Library) in 1971 as they showed one month's ration of films in just 12 days. 77 degrees northwards there was tremendous enthusiasm for films early on! Around 1970, there were 50 viewing locations in towns and settlements, while four to five portable cinemas visited the smaller settlements.

77 degrees northwards there was tremendous enthusiasm for films early on!

Greenlandic favourites

Even though films from the great wide world were popular and attracted guests, the most popular films were those where something recognizable could be seen. The biggest hits were Palos Brudefærd (1934) and Qivittoq (1956), in which the Greenlandic nature and recognizability could be experienced with the Greenlandic language and the Greenlandic actors. The film, Qivittoq, also led to Greenland's first film star and that was Niels Platou. Following the première in Denmark, he had 200 idol photos taken of himself which he could autograph and take home. That they would be devoured by fans was not what he had imagined!

Over time, several authorities selected "suitable films" for Greenland. The exception was during World War II. Here, there was no connection to Denmark and plenty of new films came to Greenland from the USA. Later, with the gradual advent of the television and, not least, the VHS in Greenland, the doors were opened up even more.

It's not always easy when there are no roads - but a plan can be made for everything!

Send films by air drop!

But it has not always been easy to get to see films in 1960s Greenland. The transportation of films was dependent on postal connections, field ice and changes in ships' timetables. In 1964 when Uummannaq needed new films and could not continue showing the same films, Filmcentralen (Film Library) in Nuuk was assured via telegram that the films could easily be delivered by air drop without this damaging the films. The enquiry was unsuccessful, but the year after they tried to convince them again to send films via air drop! It's not always easy when there are no roads - but a plan can be made for everything!

Storytelling continues on screen

Greenlanders have always been eager storytellers and stories are told about everything from heroes and anti-heroes to horror and fun. And since new media is fun to play with, it has been obvious for the Greenlanders to continue storytelling in this way.

Popular themes on screen have, for example, kept to the already existing interest in the supernatural, which was given a new media initially by way of the 1990s horror literature and now with popular feature films. Another popular theme is also telling about Greenlanders' way of life close to nature, told by film-makers who come from outside Greenland and are inspired, but also from local film-makers.

Another popular theme is also telling about Greenlanders' way of life close to nature.

If you are interested in reading more about how and when the otherwise isolated Greenland was introduced to various media, you can find more interesting information here. (Danish only).

Many films and documentaries are made in and about Greenland today. We can expect to see many more made by Greenland and about Greenland. The interest locally and internationally in Greenland will certainly not get less and this is also reflected in the growing film industry in Greenland.