40th Anniversary Celebration

The University of Alaska Museum of the North is presenting a special screening of Uksuum Cauyai: The Drums of Winter just in time for the anniversary of its completion. The film was fully restored in 2015, thanks to support from the Rasmuson Foundation and its listing in the Film Preservation Registry by the Library of Congress. Released by the museum's Film Curator Leonard Kamerling and filmmaker Sarah Elder in 1988, the film was named to the National Film Registry in 2006.

 Read about a special showing of the film earlier this year in the communities where it was created.

 This is really about the inner life and emotional landscape of dance and Yup'ik culture. This is not about the external message - not about what people do.

-- Leonard Kamerling


Read about the restoration process

Read a 2007 interview with Len and Sarah about the film


Over time, I think I really understood some of the deeper values of what dance is for the village, and how it is kind of an adhesive--a glue that brought their values together at various levels---economic and religious, and the clans, and things like that. It was a manifestation of many of their deeper values.

-- Sarah Elder



Drums of Winter has won many awards and honors, from the Blue Ribbon at the American Film Festival in Chicago, 1989 to The Best of the Mead, a retrospective of the best films from the 25-year history of the Margaret Mead Film Festival in Osaka, Japan, 2000.

See a complete list of awards and honors.


Nothing that has been written about Yup’ik dancing comes close to the power of the Yup'ik commentary contained in The Drums of Winter. Nor does any previous film treatment of Yup'ik dancing communicate so well the historical and contemporary context of dance. The combination is extraordinary, accomplishing much more than either the written word or the un-narrated image in isolation. The result is an example of the best that documentary film can offer.

-- Dr. Ann Fienup-Riordan, Author of: Freeze Frame: Alaska Eskimos in the Movies

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