Film / TV


Endangered languages




Language and Identity
Reality and Belief


Mar 20, 2006


This overview lists, comments and links to a majority, I believe, of the available TV/Film/Web-documentaries and features in/on endangered languages. You'll find more than 100 below.

May the diversity of approaches presented here inspire more films from more countries on this truly glocal issue: the current catastrophic reduction of Humanity's linguistic and cultural diversity.


About 3/4 of the films listed are produced in this century, including a couple of DVD-versions of older productions. They come from 12 countries only.

  • A single major production dominates the picture: The Canadian "Finding Our Talk" series from 2001 & 2002 reflects multiple endeavours of the First Nations. They produced almost a quarter of the films in this survey. They are even fully versioned in two indigenous languages.
  • 26 documentaries, 13 hrs, 22 lgs
  • Finnish welcomings to the Finnic speaking minorities in newly accessible Russia:
  • 9 documentaries, 3 hrs, 9 lgs
  • The United Nations Works initiated a series of supershort TV'able "vignettes" of endangered languges worldwide in 2003 and 2004. The first series was shown on Discovery Channel.
  • 18 spots, 36 mins, 18 lgs
  • A growing number of films are neither documentaries nor on language endangerment. They are full-length feature movies either in endangered languages or they tell about the general background:
  • 12 feature movies, ca 18 hrs, 8 lgs
    Further items from this century;
    Netherlands 7; Finland 4; USA and Australia (3 each); Denmark and Botswana (2 each); Spain, Austria, Canada, Chile and India (1 each).

    25 films
    , xxx mins, xx lgs
    Previous century:
    Australia 11; USA 5; UK 4; Canada, Mexico and India (2 each); France, Estonia, Turkey (1 each).

    29 films
    , xxx mins, xx lgs

  • Many films portray the predicament of a single language and/or a variety of revitalisation efforts, e.g. following a teacher, a singer, a story-teller, an elder in the community, in schools, at conferences.
  • A few tell the history of the destruction of a particular language.
  • Some films describe language endangerment in general, drawing on nation, region or world wide examples and featuring prominent scholars.
  • Also included in the list are half a dozen picture movies that tell some story not about language endangerment or even about language but in an endangered language. They are marked with grey background. Some of them are revitalization projects in their own right.

    Durations range from two-minutes TV spots, through many classic half-hour documentaries to a handful of full-length (and more!) feature and picture movies.

    Some 20 films are online.
    Others are on DVD, VHS or 35 mm film, even 16 mm.
    A few are probably not readily available any more.

  • Compiled by Ole Stig Andersen     Acknowledgements

    RECENT PRODUCTIONS, since 2000
    (about 3/4 of the total)

        produced in on / in duration  
    2006   Australia Ten Canoes Ganalbingu, Arnhem, Australia 90 mins  
    2005   Denmark In Languages We Live - Voices of the World some 20 lgs worldwide 59 mins  
    Denmark In Denmark I Was Born Danish dialects
    USA Working Together for the Benefit of the Community   Cherokee, Oklahoma, USA
    USA Vanishing Voices Chulym, Altai, Russia
    USA Jesus dubbed in 900+ lgs 2 hrs  
    2004   Finland Touch of the Bear Mansi, Siberia, Russia 52 mins  
    UN UN Works second series 10-18 9 lgs worldwide 9 x 2 mins  
    Australia Yolngu Boy Garmatj, Arnhem, Australia
    Botswana? The Gods Must Be Crazy 1-2 Ju/hoansi, Kalahari, Botswana
    2003 Spain Last Word 3 lgs in Mexico
    Finland Inari Saami Sami, Finland
    Finland Väinölän Lapset 1-10 10 lgs in NE Europe   10 x 14-29 mins  
    UN UN Works first series 1-9 (Discovery Channel) 9 lgs worldwide 9 x 2 mins  
    Finland Bride of the Seventh Heaven Nenets, Siberia, Russia 85 mins  
    2002 Netherlands   Tupe - A Forgotten Village in the Andes Jaqaru, Peru 23 mins  
    India? The Vanishing People - Onges of Little Andaman Önge, Andaman Isl, India  
    Australia Rabbit Proof Fence  
    Canada The Fast Runner Inuktitut, Baffin, Canada 3 hrs  
    Chile? Chac - The Rain God Tzeltal, Chiapas, Mexico 95 mins  
    2001 Canada Finding Our Talk 1-26 22 lgs in Canada   26 x 30 mins  
    Netherlands The Last Sounds of a Language 1-5   lgs in E Europe 5 x ? mins  
    Netherlands Lost Language lgs in W Europe 25 mins  
    Austria Elsewhere 12 lgs worldwide 4 hrs  
    2000 USA The Return of Navajo Boy Navajo, Utah, USA  
    Finland Seven Songs from the Tundra Nenets, Siberia, Russia 85 mins  


    Endangered by Locality No of
    Topic language(s)

    1 In Languages We Live:
    Mlabri, Western Aranda, Pitjantjatjara, Eastern Arrernte, Pintupi, Livonian, Tutunaku, Changsha hua, Naqxi a.o.
    1 The Jesus Film Project
    9 UN Works 2 series:
    Istro-Romanian a.o.
    9 UN Works 1 series (Discovery Channel):
    Scottish Gaelic. Sami. Haida. Kadazandusun. Ainu. Sharda (script). Idu Mishmi. Cucapá. Toba
    1 Elsewhere:
    Tamashek, Saami, Ojihimba, Korowai, Greenlandic, Kunwinjku, Ladakhi, Khanty, Moso, Sardinian, Nisga'a, Woleaian
    French? Canada    
    English 26 Finding Our Talk:
    Mohawk, Cree, Algonquin, Inuktitut, Attikamekw, Innu, Anishnabec, Ojibway, Michif, Saulteaux, Mi'kmaq, Huron/Wendat, Sencoten, Maliseet, Naskapi, Gwitchin, Secwepemc, Dakota, Dene, Oneida, Blackfoot, Dane-Zaa
    5 other films: Micmac, Mohawk, Ojibwe, Anishnabec, Saulteaux, Northern Cree, Plains Cree, Chipewyan, Secwepemc, Siksika, South Tutchone. Inuktitut
    Elsewhere: Nisga'a
    UN Works 1 / Discovery: Haida
    USA 6 Cherokee. Lushootseed. Blackfoot. Navajo. Eyak. Arapaho
    Spanish Mexico 4
    Lacandón, Mayo, Popoluca. Nahuatl. Tzeltal
    Chiapas: Tzeltal, Tzotzil, Tlacaneco
    UN Works 1 / Discovery: Cucapá
    Voices: Tutunaku
    Peru 1 Jaqaru
    Argentina 1 UN Works 1 / Discovery: Toba
    English Hawai'i, USA 1 Hawaian
    Micronesia   Elsewhere: Woleaian
    Australia 14 Ganalbingu. Garmatj. Bunuba, Gooniyandi, Kija. Miriwoong. Borroloola. Dyirbal. Kamilaroy. Urrpeye. Western Australian. Warlpiri
    Elsewhere: Kunwinjku
    Voices: Western Aranda, Eastern Arrernte, Pitjantjatjara, Pintupi
    ? Irian Jaya, Indonesia   Elsewhere: Korowai
    ? Sabah, Malaysia 1 UN Works 1 / Discovery: Kadazan dusun
    Japanese Hokkaido, Japan 1 UN Works 1 / Discovery: Ainu
    Chinese Changsha, China   Voices: Changsha hua
    ? Yunnan, China   Elsewhere: Moso
    ?   Voices: Naqxi
    Thai Thailand   Voices: Mlabri
    Hindi Andaman Islands, India 3 Andamanese, Önge
    ? Arunachal Pradesh, India 1 UN Works 1 / Discovery: Idu Mishmi
    ? Kashmir, India   Elsewhere: Ladakhi
    Russian Siberia, Russia 5 Chulym. Mansi. Nenets. Khanty
    Elsewhere: Khanty
    Turkish Turkey 1 Ubykh

    1 Verloren Taal:
    Welsh, Frisian a.o.
    5 De Lêste Lûden fan in Taal series:
    Kaszubi, Yiddish a.o.
    Russian the Baltic, Russia 8 Väinölän Lapset: Karelian. Ingermanlandian. Vepsian. Ludic. Votic
    Lêste Lûden: Yiddish
    Latvian Latvia 1 Väinölän Lapset: Livonian
    Voices: Livonian
    Polish Poland 2 Lêste Lûden: Kaszubi
    Finnish Finland 1 Inari Saami
    Elsewhere: Saami
    Swedish Sweden 1 UN Works 1 / Discovery:Sami
    Danish Denmark 1 Danish dialects
    Dutch Netherlands   Verloren Taal: Frisian
    English British Isles ? (2 unspecified DVDs)
      Scotland 1 UN Works 1 / Discovery: Scottish Gaelic
      Wales   Verloren Taal: Welsh
      Channel Islands. 2 Jèrriais. Dgèrnésiais
    French Normandy, France 1 Norman
    Italian Sardinia, Italy   Elsewhere: Sardinian
    Croatian Istria, Croatia   UN Works 2: Istro-Romanian
    ? Sahara, Niger   Elsewhere: Tamashek
    ? Mali   Voices: Dogon
    Afrikaans? Namibia   Elsewhere: Ojihimba
    seTswana? Kalahari, Botswana 2 Ju/hoansi
    Some Radio
    Further links


    2005   I SPROGET ER JEG (In Languages We Live) (VOICES OF THE WORLD)

    Final Cut Productions
    Forbindelsesvej 7; DK-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark
    Tel: +45 3543 6043, Fax: +45 3543 6044
    59 mins digibeta film and DVD. In Danish and English.
        Visits some 20 languages including Western Aranda, Eastern Arrernte, Pitjantjatjara, Pintupi (all four Pama-Nyungan, Northern Territory, Australia), Dogon (Niger-Congo, Mali), Mlabri (Khmuic, Thailand), Livonian (Finnic, Latvia), Tutunaku (Mexican), Changsha hua (Sinitic, Changsha, China) and Naqxi (Burmese-Lolo, Yunnan, China).
        In Languages We Live tells the story of the loss the world is suffering from the threat of language endangerment.
        Features linguists David Crystal, Peter Austin & Jørgen Rischel. Dirs: Janus Billeskov Jansen and Signe Byrge Sørensen.
        (The Danish production company Final Cut is currently producing a film on Mlabri (Khmuic, Thailand))

    2005 (1980)   THE JESUS FILM PROJECT

    Christian Campus Initiative
    2 hrs. Online, DVD and VHS. Available in 900+ languages!
        This "docudrama" is a dramatization of the Gospel of Luke. The film was originally produced by Warner Bros and released 1980 in movie theatres with no great succes. The Christian Campus Initiative has vowed to issue this film in as many of the world's languages as possible. Until now it is dubbed in more than 900 languages, and since 2005 are 300+ languages online, too, including a number of endangered ones. No other film has been versioned in anywhere near that number of languages. The Jesus Film Project constitutes an important front in the American Evangelical challenge to the world's cultural diversity. (Cf "A language is a dialect with a missionary")

    2004   UN WORKS second series 10-18

    UN Works and UNESCO
    9x2 mins TV-spots. Online.
        Languages presented: Istro-Romanian (Romance, Istria, Croatia), a.o.

    2003   UN WORKS first series 1-9 / DISCOVERY CHANNEL

    Discovery Channel, UN Works and UNESCO
    9x2 mins TV-spots. Online. Broadcast occasionally since the International Mother Language Day (Feb 21) 2003 by Discovery Channel, subtitled in a number of languages.
        Languages presented: Scottish Gaelic (Celtic, Scotland), Sami (Finnic, Sweden), Haida (Na-Dene, British Columbia, Canada), Kadazandusun (Malayo-Polynesian, Sabah, Malaysia), Ainu (isolate, Hokkaido, Japan), Sharda script (Kashmir, India), Idu Mishmi (Tibeto-Burman, Arunachal Pradesh, India), Cucapá (Mexico), Toba (Ge-Pano, Argentina).

    2001   ELSEWHERE,
    Nikolaus Geyrhalter Filmproduction, Austria
    phone/fax +43 1.403 01 62
    4 hrs. Spoken in 12 languages, 20 mins each, but not especially or exclusively about languages: Tamashek (Berber, Niger), Saami (Finnic, Finland), Ojihimba (Bantu, Namibia), Korowai (Irian Jaya (New Guinea), Indonesia), Greenlandic (Eskimo, Thule), Kunwinjku (non-Pama-Nyungan, Arnhem Land, Australia), Ladakhi (Tibetic, Kashmir, India), Khanty (Ugric, Siberia, Russia), Moso (Burmic, Yunnan, China), Sardinian (Romance, Italy), Nisga'a (Tsimshian, British Columbia, Canada) and Woleaian (Micronesian).
        Every episode is told in the language of the people, with English and German subtitles. Dir: Nikolaus Geyrhalter. In the year 2000 he visited another place of our planet every month, and listened to what the people living there had to tell.
        "It's four hours long, but much too short!"

    2001   VERLOREN TAAL (Lost Language)

    25 mins in Dutch. Online.
        Languages featured: Welsh (Celtic, Wales, UK), Frisian (Germanic, the Netherlands) a. o.
        Interviews with David Crystal and Durk Gorter.

    2001   DE LÊSTE LUDEN FAN IN TAAL 1 - 5 (The Last Sounds of a Language)

    Omrop Fryslân (Frisian TV)
    In Frisian.
        On Kaszubi (W Slavonic, Poland) a.o. lgs, including

      MAMELOSHN (De Lêste Lûden Fan In Taal 3)
    On Yiddish (Germanic) in Russia.


    2001   FINDING OUR TALK - a Journey into Aboriginal Languages 1-26

    Mushkeg Media
    103 Villeneuve St. W, Montreal,
    Qc H2T 2R6 Canada
    A massive production, a total of 26 independent half-hour films, more than a quarter of all the films in this compilation, and all available in 4 languages: Mohawk, Cree, French & English. Also referred to as "Finding My Talk". General director: Paul M. Rickard.
      Each VHS (30 mins) features a language revitalization effort (of very different kinds) in some 20 First Nation languages. There is also a film about Cultural Centres and one on indigenous languages' syllabaries.
      "A great series"
                      MOHAWK: Language Among the Skywalkers: The story of the legendary Mohawk (Iroquoian) ironworkers, and of new approaches to language instruction for both adults and children within the contemporary community of Kahnawake.

    CREE: Language Immersion: The history of the very successful Cree (Algonquian) Language Immersion Program, developed and implemented in schools in the Cree communities of Northern Québec.

    ALGONQUIN: The Trees are Talking: George and Maggie Wabanonick take a group of teens to the woods to initiate them in their traditional culture and language. In the classroom, the kids and teachers struggle with their Algonquin lessons, while the pop group Anishnabe give the language new life.

    INUKTITUT: The Power of Words: At a language conference in Puvirnituq, we witness efforts to keep Inuktitut (Eskimo) alive and up-to-date, largely through the knowledge and commitment of elders.

    ATTIKAMEKW / INNU: Words Travel on Air: Karin Awashish, a young radio journalist working at SOCAM, makes a trip to her home community to tape interviews and legends told by elders in Attikamekw (Cree, Algonquian), as part of the network's language initiative.

    OJIBWAY / ANISHINABE: Language in the City: Focuses on Isadore Toulouse's weekly trajectory to four different urban-based schools where we witness first-hand, and with raw immediacy, his efforts to pass on his own enthusiasm and passion for the Ojibwe language (Algonquian).

    MICHIF: Getting Into Michif: We meet some of the movers and shakers working politically and through the education system to have Michif (French-Cree creole) recognized as the official language of the Métis, as well as those whose passion and dedication are evidenced at the grass-roots level.

    SAULTEAUX: Plains Talk: The work of a virtually self-taught, highly motivated language teacher. Stella Ketchemonia has devoted her life to teaching the Saulteaux language. She is now a member of the dynamic staff of the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College.

    MI'KMAW: Breaking New Ground: Two projects: a pilot to have Mi'kmaw (Algonquian) adopted as an official second language in high school curriculum and Mi'kmaw as the language of instruction for a university level science program.

    HURON / WENDAT (Iroguoian): A Silent Language. A look at the historical roots of a language's demise and at present-day efforts to re-kindle it in spoken form. It also explores the cultural significance and implications of language as a ceremonial artefact.

    INNU: The Power of One: In his home community of Maliotenam, we follow performer Florent Vollant, formerly a member of the musical duo Kashtin, on his musical campaign to inspire Innu (Cree, Algonquian) youth with the passion and concern he feels for his language.

    Syllabics: Capturing the Language: A look at the historical development and contemporary applications of syllabic writing systems in some of Canada's native languages.

    SANICH: A Remarkable Legacy: The story of Dave Elliott, a Saanich fisherman who almost single-handedly resurrected the dying language of his people - Sencofen - by creating an alphabet system, recording the elders and developing a language curriculum for local schools.

    MOHAWK: A Brighter Future: We look at the newly established Mohawk (Iroquoian) immersion high school in Kanehsatake, Quebec, which is being built at the site of the 1990 Oka Crisis. We also look at how a group of young Mohawk video makers in Kahnawake are using video to express their ideas on language and culture.

    MALISEET: Gentle Words: Examines the effort and the importance of community involvement in maintaining and reviving culture and language. Imelda Perley, teacher and Maliseet (Algonquian, New Brunswick) speaker has committed much of her time and knowledge to the people of St. Mary’s, Kingsclear and Tobique N.B, by taking the initiative to start a language program involving everyday activities.

    OJIBWAY: The Spirit Of Stories: The Ojibway Cultural Center on Manitoulin Island, Ontario and their work on to preserve the Ojibway language (Algonquian). We also look at the Nookmis and Mishoomis of the Mnjikaning First Nation, which has a unique group of women whose teaching project, based on Mother Goose, to teach children to read, write and talk by using nursery rhymes and songs in the Ojibway language.

    NASKAPI: Language of the North: How the Naskapi (Algonquian) Development Corporation has spearheaded the promotion of the Naskapi language, history and culture. Projects that they are involved with include the computerization of the Naskapi Lexicon, and a Naskapi language translation of the Bible.

    GWITCHIN: Language of the Caribou: How the Gwitchin people have used their language to become experts in intergovernmental relations and negotiations in an attempt to protect their way of life, which is threatened by the oil and gas industries. The fight by the Gwitchin (Athabaskan) has become a leading international voice in the preservation of the Porcupine Caribou Herds, which is vital to their culture and language.

    SHUSWAP (SECWEPEMC): Our Past Our Language: Looking at BC’s leading language preservation groups we’ll discover how the Secwepemc have established an instruction system to teach the Secwepemc language (Salish, British Columbia) from kindergarten to university. Their focus of instruction is based on the environmental aspects of learning, teaching, conservation and the preservation through the use of their language.

    DAKOTA: Buffalo People: Chronicles the history of the Dakota (Siouan, Saskatchewan) in Canada and their struggles to save their Siouxan culture and language. The community of Wahpeton Dakota First Nation is also desperately trying to preserve the last remaining herds of buffalo in Saskatchewan, which is central to their plains culture and language.

    DENE: The Healing Power of Words: Mission schools contributed to the destruction of Aboriginal languages. We’ll look at the three residential school survivors working as healers in Yellowknife, NWT. Through their personal, we get an understanding of the impacts felt throughout multiple generations and the different ways they are working to overcome that damage through the healing power of language.

    ONEIDA: Our Music is Our Language: We look at the Tsi Niyukwalihot:u Learning Center, established in 1987, which provides a total immersion language program, but with a twist - all learning takes place not within the classroom setting, but rather within the community. We will also look at the Oneidas (Iroquoian) of the Thames who, without government approval, boldly practice their sovereignty with an unlicensed radio station.

    CREE (Algonquian): Words from Our Scholars: How linguistic approaches are being studied and applied in various educational institutions by Aboriginal scholars. We attend the CINSA (Canadian Indigenous and Native Studies Association) to get a first hand look at how First Nations scholars are applying Aboriginal languages in their fields of study through research, curriculum development and its application at the community level.

    BLACKFOOT: Words from Our Elders: Inspired by a period of rapid change between Blackfoot (Algonquian) dialects, and using a collection of published interviews with elders conducted 20 years ago, the Kainai Board of Education is developing its own Blackfoot language curriculum. The revival of the language among the young people has inspired them to also part-take in sacred Blackfoot societies and ceremonies.

    CULTURAL CENTERS AND LANGUAGE: We look at the important role that the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre has played in strengthening cultural awareness and in establishing several educational institutions in Saskatchewan. We also visit the Tsi Ronterihwanonhnha language centre in Kanesatake, Quebec whose doors remain open in the face of serious funding cutbacks

    DANE-ZAA: Dreamers: In the 1960’s an anthropologist came to record the ancient dreamers and hunters of the Dane-zaa (Athabaskan) of Northeastern British Columbia. Amongst the people lived a prophet that traveled into the spirit world through dreaming and saw the changes that would occur to the land and his people. In 2001, a grandson of a prophet began the journey of retelling the stories of Dane-zaa people through the digitalization of archival photographs, oral stories and music in keeping the tradition of wise storytelling alive through multimedia.

    CANADA - further

    2002   ATANARJUAT (The Fast Runner)
    3 hrs DVD in Inuktitut (Eskimo). Subtitles: English, French, Dutch, Danish. Dir: Zacharias Kunuk.
        First feature-length fiction film written, produced, directed, and acted by Inuit. Igloolik is a community of 1200 people located on a small island in the north Baffin region of the Canadian Arctic with archeological evidence of 4000 years of continuous habitation. Throughout these millennia, with no written language, untold numbers of nomadic Inuit renewed their culture and traditional knowledge for every generation entirely through storytelling. Atanarjuat is part of this continuous stream of oral history carried forward into the new millennium through a marriage of Inuit storytelling skills and new technology. Atanarjuat gives international audiences a more authentic view of Inuit culture and oral tradition than ever before, from the inside and through Inuit eyes.
        Review by Hugh Brody in openDemocracy. Some 25 years earlier Brody made a documentary from the same community, "and it showed the heartbreaking degeneration of the Inuktituk community and the loss of language and culture. 25 years later this same community produced this incredible major film. I use the two films in contrast."
        "Completely absorbing film, really fabulous".

    AWAKENINGS - The Story of First Voices

    First Peoples' Cultural Foundation,
    31 Bastion Square, Victoria, British Columbia, V8W1J1, Canada
    250 361 3456 Fax: 250 361 3467
    12 mins DVD.
    (A new version is in production.)


    Assembly of First Nations,
    The Education Secretariat, +1-613-241-6789
    1 Nicholas St., Suite 1002, Ottawa, Ontario K1N 7B7, Canada
    Video. Hosted by Georges Erasmus.
        Features Algonquian languages: Micmac, Ojibwe, Anishnabec, Northern Cree, Plains Cree, Siksika. Athabaskan languages: Chippewyan, South Tutchone. And Mohawk (Iroquoian), Secwepemc (Salish, British Columbia) and Saulteaux.


    2005   GA-DU-GI (Working Together for the Benefit of the Community)

    Dept. of Educational Foundations and Leadership
    Northeastern State University
    Tahlequah, OK 74464, USA
    (918)-456-5511, ext. 3714
    VHS and DVD in English and Cherokee (Iroquoian, Oklahoma).
        The story of collaboration between the Cherokee Nation, Lost City Schools, Northeastern State University and other entities to help with revitalizing the Cherokee language. Only 1% of Cherokee-speakers are under the age of 45. The language revitalization project has a strong and dedicated beginning, with a call to action by the Principle Chief Chad Smith.
        Focuses on children, with special emphasis on the public school Cherokee-language immersion classrooms at Lost City School and the Child Development Center at Cherokee Nation, and the partnerships, including NSU, that endeavor to carry out strategies to revitalize the language for the people. The video features interviews by participants; the Cherokee-language immersion classrooms; singing in Cherokee; a brief history of the Cherokee syllabary; and a field trip to Sequoyah's (inventor of the syllabary) home near Sallisaw, Oklahoma.
        (Currently producing a short video that is an "update" of new developments in the Cherokee Language immersion program, including the announcement of a new degree at NSU: Bachelor of Arts in Cherokee Education.)

    Living for more than six decades in Monument Valley, Utah, the Navajo (Athabaskan) Cly family has an extraordinary history in pictures. Since the 1930's, family members have appeared as unidentified subjects in countless photographs and films shot in Monument Valley including various postcards, Hollywood Westerns and a rare home-movie by legendary director John Ford. But it is the sudden appearance of a rarely seen vintage film that affects their lives the most.... With the return of "Navajo Boy," Elsie seizes the opportunity to tell her family's story for the first time, offering a unique perspective to the history of the American west. Using a variety of still photos and moving images from the 40s and 50s and telling their family story in their own voices, the Clys shed light on the Native side of picture making and uranium mining in Monument Valley. By Jeff Spitz.
        Sundance Festival Award 2000.

    1997   E OLA KA 'OLELO HAWAI'I (The Hawaian Language Shall Live)

    'Aha Punana Leo
    P.O. Box 1265 Kea'au, HI 96749, USA
    28 mins video in Hawaian (Eastern Polynesian). Winner of two Canadian film festival awards.
        Hawaian revitalisation and recent language history. Immersion classes inspired by Maori (Eastern Polynesian, New Zealand). Describes the most successful effort for indigenous language revitalization in the U.S. It tells the story of over a century of decline for the Hawaiian language and the revival of its use in the past two decades. Through interviews, archival footage, and visits to Hawaiian language immersion classrooms, this video makes a powerful statement about the value of the Hawaiian language and culture for Native Hawaiians. It describes how they learned about Maori "language nest" immersion preschools, implemented them in Hawaii, and then expanded Hawaiian language immersion instruction into the public schools of Hawaii by getting state English-only laws changed.

    1996   MORE THAN WORDS

    AMIPA, Alaska Moving Images Preservation Association
    1325 Primrose, Anchorage, AK 99508, USA
    50 mins VHS. Dir: Laura Bliss Spaan.
        Follows 77-year-old Marie Smith, the Last Speaker of Eyak (Na-Dene, Alaska), on an emotional journey back to her childhood home. As chief of the remaining Eyaks, Marie presides over a traditional Potlatch ceremony - the first in 85 years. The film also features Eyak experts Frederica de Laguna and Michael Krauss.
        Review in Whole Earth,   Study assignment

    1995   HUCHOOSEDAH: Traditions of the Heart

    KCTS Television,
    401 Mercer Street Seattle, WA 98109, USA
    KCTS Product Marketing
    (206) 443-4289 or 1-800-937-5387
    60 mins video.
        On Seattle's Upper Skagit Peninsula, 77-year-old tribal elder, historian, and scholar Vi Hilbert works to preserve the ancient Lushootseed tongue (Salish, Washington) as a living language. She is a famous traditional story teller, non-traditional only in that she tells all stories bilingually, Lushoseets and English.
        "I play it every year for my students", "very good, very powerful and very moving."

    1994 (1942)   BAMBI

    Arapaho (Algonquian, Wyoming)

    1991   TRANSITIONS - Destruction of a Mother Tongue

    The Native Voices Public Television
    VCB Room 222, Montana State Univ., Bozeman, MT 59717, USA
    tel: 406/994-6218; fax: 406/994-6545
    30 mins VHS in English and Siksika (= Blackfoot, Algonquian, Montana) with English subtitles. By Darrel Kipp & Joe Fisher. Narrators: Ed Little Plume and Valerie McCoy.
        This provocative film by Blackfeet producers explores the relationship between language, thought, culture, and examines the impact of language loss in Native American communities. Chronicles the disappearance of the language of The Blackfoot Confederacy, Rocky Mountains 1890-1990, with analysis of why the Mother tongue was destroyed.
        1836: 100,000. 1837: smallpox wiped out 4/5. 1855: agreement with government. Extermination of the buffalo. 1900: death rate doubles birth rate. Destruction by three institutions in the US and Canada: school, church, government. Confined to a reservation. Ban on language and ceremonies. 2000: 20,000+
        The film points out the tremendous loss that is only now beginning to be realized, not only by tribal members, but also by the society around them. The film also illustrates the commonality of language loss amongst Indian Tribes.
        A teacher's study guide is also available.


    2003   ULTIMA PALABRA (The Last Word)

    Milana Bonita
    A journey across the Mexican linguistic landscape: Mayo (Uto-Aztec) in the Sonoran desert, Lacandón (Mayan) in the Chiapas jungle and Popoluca (Oto-Manguean) in the agricultural lands of Vera Cruz. Each of the languages lets us see the most common causes why languages die. Dir: Grau Serra
        Very detailed description:
        (More documentaries on endangered languages are currently in production by the Catalan production company Milana Bonita. About revitalization and about language loss, causes and answers, with the participation of four well-known linguists.)

    2002 (1974)   CHAC - The Rain God

    Preview, reviews and purchase at
    Digitally Obsessed and Rotten Tomatoes
    95 mins, DVD and film. Dialogue in Tzeltal (Mayan, Chiapas), subtitles in English.
        A cult film, lost for years and now newly restored. Based on rituals and legends from the Popul Vuh. This gorgeous film, shot in the Chiapas region of Mexico by Chilean director Rolando Klein, focuses on a small Tzeltal village during a terrible drought and the thirteen men who make an attempt to save their people from starvation. They approach a solitary Diviner who's educated in the way of the Ancients in hopes that he can call upon Chac, the Rain God. "Chac" is magical, mystical and intensely visual. A dazzling portrait of a Native American spiritual quest, "Chac" is a visionary masterpiece.

    1998   LA SIRENA AALAMATZIN (The Mermaid Legend)
    26 mins computer animated film in Nahuatl (Aztecan) with Spanish subtitles.
        A re-creation of a centuries-old oral story, culled from an Aztec legend, in the artistic style of papel amate (bark painting).
    Sponsored by Mexico's cultural ministry. Dir: Jaime Cruz.

    since 1998   CHIAPAS MEDIA PROJECT

    CMP, Chiapas Media Project
    4834 N. Springfield, Chicago, IL 60625, USA
    Tel: 1-773-583-7728
    Pro Medios de Comunicación Comunitaria
    Since 1998 the CMP has been working as a bi-national partnership providing video and computer equipment and training to indigenous and campesino communities in Chiapas and Guerrero, Southern Mexico. The emphasis has been in the area of video production. The Chiapas Media Project is currently distributing 16 indigenous productions worldwide.
        Today the Zapatistas are the most documented indigenous movement in the history of the world with hundreds of videos, films, web-sites and books created by people from the outside. The CMP has provided these same indigenous communities with the technology and training to tell their own stories from their own perspectives. For centuries indigenous people and their cultures have been represented by people from the outside. Recently over the past few years there has been an effort to get new communication technology into the hands of indigenous people so that they can represent themselves, with their own words and images. This is what the Chiapas Media Project (CMP) is attempting to do in Southern Mexico.
        "I have seen a couple of these videos touching on the issue of language death"


    2002   TUPE - A Forgotten Village In The Andes

    KFTV, Kuijer Film- & TV Produkties
    Singel 272, 1016 AC Amsterdam, the Netherlands
    23 mins Betacam Sp/PAL. In Jaqaru (Andean) with subtitles in Dutch and English.
        A film about a small Indian community with its own language Jagaru and culture that goes back to an age before the Incas. A language and a culture, that is on the brink of extinction.
        Tupe is high in the Andes and virtually isolated from the rest of the world. A steep and narrow winding path ends, after seven hours trek, 3000 metres above sea level into the streets of this remote Peruvian village. There's no electricity, so there's no TV. The only contact with the outside world is a single battery-powered radio.
        The people live from simple agriculture and weaving. There are no tractors, machines or animals that can be used in agriculture. Using a simple foot plough, designed in the Inca period, narrow terraces are tilled in the mountains. The seed is sewn from an age-old vision of the cosmos in which Pachamama mother earth is central. Each crop has its own song and its own dance.
        But the power of communal traditions increasingly falls victim to poverty and a lack of perspective. Kids move out and the village is in danger of turning grey. Inhabitants wonder how long this traditional way of life can be maintained, because they too see the modern era creeping up on them slowly; the work to make the footpath suitable for cars has already started and that will make the village accessible...
        The film has been shot entirely in the Jagaru language, with the idea that the possible loss of this culture is also a major blow to the heritage of the whole world.
        In late 2001, Tupe is the first community in Peru recognised as Living Cultural Heritage by the INC (Instituto Nacional de Cultura)
        By Stef de Haan, Casper Haspels and Jos Kuijer.


    2006   TEN CANOES

    90 mins. Ganalbingu (Yolngu, Pama-Nyungan, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory)

    2004 ?   YOLNGU BOY

    Garmatj (Yolngu, Pama-Nyungan, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory)


    1997   SO THEY CAN KNOW

    KLRC, Kimberley Language Resource Centre
    PMB 11 Halls Creek WA 6770, Australia
    (08) 9168 6005, fax: (08) 9168 6023
    AIATSIS catalogue accession number LV3356, Collection no. FILMAUSTRALIA_FILM_001
    12 mins.
        Three non-Pama-Nyungan languages in Kimberley, North Western Australia: Bunuba, Gooniyandi, Kija.
        Language nests.

    (Not to lose you my language: Bilingual education in the Northern Territory)

    Film Australia
    Department of Education, Northern Territory Division
    NLA FILM A10097880 C4759 C1049
    27 mins, 16 mm. Dir: Greg Reading.
        Presents aspects of Aboriginal bilingual education in the Northern Territory. Stresses the need for Aboriginal children to learn English, and also to learn and maintain their native Aboriginal language. Shows Warlpiri (Pama-Nyungan) teachers in classrooms.
        Other films on the Warlpiri:

    Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
    AIATSIS catalogue
    A search on ['Language Maintenance'] in the Audiovisual Archives of AIATSIS yields the following 9 film/videos:

    LETS TALK MIRIWOONG (non-Pama-Nyungan)
    JIRRBAL LANGUAGE CONFERENCE (Pama-Nyungan, Queensland)

    A search on ["Language education" AND "film/video"] in the AudiovisualArchives of AIATSIS yields a further 25 film/videos.

    The WWW Virtual Library for Australian Aboriginal Languages
    now lists 224 resources for about 70 Australian languages.
    Interestingly, the proportion of sites from Indigenous authors or publishers is now about 33%, up from about 25% in 2003.

    The Andamanese (in Danish)

    2002   THE VANISHING PEOPLE - Onges of Little Andaman



    Central Institute of Indian Languages


    Central Institute of Indian Languages
    40 mins video.


    1987   SON SESLER (Last Voices)

    26 mins in Turkish. Dir: Ismet Arasan.
        Conversation between the Last Speaker of Ubykh (NW Caucasian), Tevfik Esenç (died 1992), and linguist Georges Charachidze.



    Ironbound Films
    Features David Harrison and Greg Anderson's work to document Chulym (Turkic, Altai, Southern Siberia). Dir: Seth Kramer.
        How languages become endangered, and the awesome task of recording, archiving, and returning them to use.

    2004   KARHUN KÄMMENELLÄ (Touch of the Bear)
    About Mansi (Ugric) school children in a small Siberian village and their enthusiastic teachers. By Kirsikka Moring.

    2003   NUMD SJARDA (Jumalan Morsian) (Bride of the Seventh Heaven)
    85 mins (35 mm film) in Nenets (Samoyed). English subtitles. By Anastasia Lapsui & Markku Lehmuskallio.

    2000   SEITSEMÄN LAULUA TUNDRALTA (Seven Songs from the Tundra)

    Jörn Donner Productions
    Pohjoisranta 12, 00170 Helsinki, Finland
    Tel.: (358- 9) 135 60 60, Fax: 135 75 68
    85 mins (35 mm film). First feature film in Nenets (Samoyed). By Markku Lehmuskallio & Anastasia Lapsui.

    1989   TOORUMI POJAD (Toorum's [The Heaven God's] Sons)

    Khanty (Ugric).
    Dir: Lennart Meri (later president of Estonia).


    2003   VÄINÖLÄN LAPSET 1-10
    10 videos online (.rm) presenting small Baltic Finnic languages in Russia and Latvia. In Finnish.
    • Inkeroiset (Ingrian = Ingermanlandian), 13'44
    • Aunuksenkarjalaiset (Karelian), 28'29
    • Tverinkarjalaiset (Karelian), 17'33
    • Vienankarjalaiset (Karelian), 16'31
    • Liiviläiset (Livonian, Latvia), 22'48
    • Lyydiläiset (Ludic), 21'13
    • Vepsäläiset (Vepsian), 16'52
    • Virolaiset, 20'07
    • Vatjalaiset (Votic), 13'53
      (and Suomalaiset (Finnish), 17'28)


    2003   INARI SAAMI

    26 mins. Online (.rm). In Finnish. English subtitles.
        On the revitalisation of the Inari Saami language (Finnic).


    2005   I DANMARK ER JEG FØDT (In Denmark I Am Born)

    On and in Danish dialects (North Germanic). Danish and English subtitles.
        On the disappearance of Danish dialects.
        Dir: Peter Klitgård


    London Television Service for Infonation
    UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Room K557
    King Charles Street, London SW1A 2AH, UK
    2 DVDs, as yet unspecified.

    LA COUE d'LÈZARDE (The Lizard's Tail)

    CAONTAÏ DES LUURES (Telling Stories)

    Organîsateu d'l'Ensîngnage du Jèrriais
    Several series of programmes in Jèrriais and Dgèrnésiais (both Romance, Jersey and Guernsey respectively) were broadcast on Channel Television. The company's license at the time demanded one hour per annum (!) of programming in either of the local languages. This requirement was dropped in about 2002, when Independent Television in the United Kingdom was re-organised, allowing less time for regional programming. The last three series also featured mainland Norman (Romance), as they were recorded at the annual Fête Nouormande in Montebourg (Normandy), Guernsey and Jersey respectively.
        Two of the earliest series consisting of short 10 minute programmes were re-packaged and made available to the public on video - La Coue d'Lèzarde (The Lizard's Tail) in Jèrriais, and Caontaï des Luures (Telling Stories) in Dgèrnésiais. Each video ran just under an hour in total, and they are still occasionally available at bric-à-brac stalls, jumbles, garage sales etc!
        Dir: Tony Scott Warren.


    LES DERNIRS (The Last Ones)

    Baraka Productions, 10 rue Pasteur, 14000 Caen, France
    Tel. +33 (0) 2 31 85 16 16 email:
    Atelier Cinema de Normandie (ACCAAN), 57 rue Victor Lepine, 14000 Caen, France
    Tel: +33 2 31 84 32 77, email:
    About Norman (Romance, Normandy)

    Click Sounds (in Danish)

    2004 (1980)   THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY 1-2

    Dialogue in Ju/hoansi (Khoisan, Kalahari)


    US National Public Radio (NPR) March 8, 2002."
    This goes into as much depth as you can expect from a talk show directed at more general audience. The host, Ira Flatow, does a good job of kindling the listener's interest. The guests: Steven Bird, Jerold Edmondson, Lawrence Kaplan

    NPR radio show on endangered languages 2005

    There is a radio documentary with Nigel Crawhill on his work with Bushman languages.

    Australia Broadcasting Corporation's Lingua Franca program has shows on Australian Aboriginal languages and language endangerment from time to time (

    "Skuld' gammel sprog rejn forgo?" (Should auld language be forgot?). Radio documentary in Danish on Scots and Gaelic, 1999, 55 mins.


    The Internet Movie Database

    Linguistically Significant Films

    HADDON, the online catalogue of over 1500 archival ethnographic films and film footage shot during the first half-century of cinema 1895-1945. The material is largely documentary and was largely shot outside Western Europe.

    Endangered Languages List

    Foundation for Endangered Languages,


    Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas (SSILA)

    The Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project at SOAS, University of London, consists of three programmes:
    - ELDP - the Documentation Programme. Its main focus is the distribution of research grants
    - ELAP - the Academic Programme. Focus: PhD and MA programmes in Field Linguistics and Language Documentation and Description
    - ELAR - the Archive Programme. Focus: digital archiving and dissemination of language documentation

    Rosetta Stone - a resource for language revitalization

    Free office suite project Open is warmly interested in developing this open source product for all languages. Go to

    Year of Languages 2005 (Usa)


    This overview is the accumulated outcome of a query prompted by Mogens Kløvedal and posted by Ole Stig Andersen on May 5, 2005 to Endangered Languages List, Linguist-List and Lowlands-List, asking for
    "... TV documentaries and films about Endangered Languages, or where language endangerment or revitalization is part of the story told."

    The query immediately yielded pointers to some 50 films.
    It has since developed into the current list of about a hundred.
    Certainly there are more.
    I welcome your comments, corrections, additional information, further films etc.

    Compiled by Ole Stig Andersen

    Thanks a lot to

              David Alexander, Peter Bakker, Rosemary Beam de Azcona, Claire Bowern, Mary Boyce, Peter Brand, Ilhan Cagri, Josep Cru, Susan Frusher, Reinhold F Hahn, Damien Hall, Dianne Hosking, Lucas Hüsgen, Ute Junker, Mai Kuha, Jos Kuijer, Johanna Laakso, Karita Laisi, Chas Mac Donald, Marouani Hakima, Joyce McDonough, Tad McIlwraith, Matti Miestamo, Mike Morgan, David Nash, Nicholas Ostler, Gabriela Pérez Báez, Kirk R Person, B K Rana, Jon Reyhner, Norvin Richards, Julia Sallabank, Leslie Saxon, Roger Sogues, Patricia A Spaulding, Regula Sutter, Signe Byrge Sørensen, Marit Vamarasi, Dick Vigers, Matt Walenski and Tony Scott Warren,

    without whose kind suggestions there would be no list.

    Alias: Endengered Rescue Documentation Threatened Threat Death Disappearing






    Film / TV


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    © Ole Stig Andersen, May 10, 2005 (rev Mar 20, 2006)