In 1885, German Zoo owner Carl Hagenbeck hired nine Aboriginal men from Bella Coola to perform their dances and songs for German audiences. The nine dancers spent one year in Germany performing in zoos and theatres in 22 cities. An extensive archive of published material, letters, papers and artifacts were left behind in Germany by the men. One hundred and twenty-five years later, the dancers’ experience in Germany continue to influence their descendants, the Nuxalk First Nation, as they strive to preserve their language, dances, songs, art and ultimately, their identity in the modern world.
The documentary “From Bella Coola to Berlin” recreates this amazing journey through interviews with academics in Germany and descendants of the dancers in Bella Coola, fictional vignettes, and archival footage and photographs.