Kon-Tiki (1951)

68 or 72-73 mins | Documentary | April 1951

Full page view
HISTORY

The viewed print was a television version of the original film, produced in 1995 by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corp., in conjuction with The Kon-Tiki Museum. The above credits were taken from a cutting continuity deposited with the Copyright Office in 1951. The following written statement is included in the continuity credits: "This is the actual film record of the Kon-Tiki expedition photographed by these men who lived its great adventure." Each of the expedition's six-member crew, except Bengt Danielsson, then appears onscreen in both a still photograph and live-action footage. Danielsson is seen only in a still shot. According to the continuity, radio commentator Ben Grauer appears onscreen, addressing the audience in an office setting. Grauer introduces Thor Heyerdahl (1914--2002) and the other crew members. Heyerdahl then addresses the audience and narrates the action offscreen. The viewed print did not include Grauer's introduction, and many of the onscreen credits were different than the cutting continuity credits. Heyerdahl's commentary was delivered by an offscreen English narrator in the 1995 version. The content of the commentary was not altered for the television version, however. The viewed print featured a new soundtrack and musical score, composed by Ragnar Bjerkreim and performed by the Film Symphony Orchestra of Prague.
       Although not mentioned in the onscreen credits, copyright records indicate that the film was based on F. H. Lyons' translation of Heyerdahl's best-selling book Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific by Raft , which was titled Kon-Tiki ekspedisjonen in Norway. Artfilm, A.B. was a Swedish film company, and according to an Oct 1950 HR news item, a Swedish-language version of the film was ... More Less

The viewed print was a television version of the original film, produced in 1995 by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corp., in conjuction with The Kon-Tiki Museum. The above credits were taken from a cutting continuity deposited with the Copyright Office in 1951. The following written statement is included in the continuity credits: "This is the actual film record of the Kon-Tiki expedition photographed by these men who lived its great adventure." Each of the expedition's six-member crew, except Bengt Danielsson, then appears onscreen in both a still photograph and live-action footage. Danielsson is seen only in a still shot. According to the continuity, radio commentator Ben Grauer appears onscreen, addressing the audience in an office setting. Grauer introduces Thor Heyerdahl (1914--2002) and the other crew members. Heyerdahl then addresses the audience and narrates the action offscreen. The viewed print did not include Grauer's introduction, and many of the onscreen credits were different than the cutting continuity credits. Heyerdahl's commentary was delivered by an offscreen English narrator in the 1995 version. The content of the commentary was not altered for the television version, however. The viewed print featured a new soundtrack and musical score, composed by Ragnar Bjerkreim and performed by the Film Symphony Orchestra of Prague.
       Although not mentioned in the onscreen credits, copyright records indicate that the film was based on F. H. Lyons' translation of Heyerdahl's best-selling book Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific by Raft , which was titled Kon-Tiki ekspedisjonen in Norway. Artfilm, A.B. was a Swedish film company, and according to an Oct 1950 HR news item, a Swedish-language version of the film was also made. No information about the Swedish-language version has been found, however. American producer Sol Lesser purchased the picture's worldwide distribution rights in Oct 1950, according to HR . Credits in the 1995 version note that the "original" film was produced by Syncron-Film in cooperation with Artfilm, but no contemporary information about Syncron's involvement has been located. The film was awarded a prize at the Edinburgh Film Festival and won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1951. The picture was a financial success and a hit on the "art house circuit," according to a Dec 1951 Var item.
       According to various contemporary sources, in Jul 1951, Mrs. Arlette Purea Reasin, a native Tahitian, sued Sol Lesser Productions, Heyerdahl and RKO for $150,000, claiming that footage of her performing hula dances was included in the film without her permission. Reasin, who operated a plantation with her husband, John Russell Reasin, argued that she performed the dances during a party held in the sailors' honor and never authorized its screening for commercial purposes. Reasin asked for an injunction against the picture and complained that advertising artists injected sex into drawings of her dance, causing her embarrassment and mental anguish. Heyerdahl testified that Reasin was aware that the film was being taken and would be shown commercially. Noting that a version of the picture had been shown in Tahiti three years before its U.S. release, defense lawyers contended that Reasin waited too long to file her suit. In Oct 1951, Judge Robert H. Scott ruled against Reasin, stating that when she danced for Heyerdahl's camera, she was in effect making a gift to him. In Jul 1952, HR announced that Kon-Tiki Enterprises had been formed by Lesser, Heyerdahl and Rand-McNally Publishing to capitalize on Heyerdahl's celebrity and merchandise a full line of articles, such as lamps and bookends, bearing the "Kon-Tiki" motif.
       Heyerdahl's theory regarding the migration of South Americans to Polynesia is still being questioned today. Most scholars believe that Polynesia was settled by Asians, who were much closer to the islands than Incans. Recent genetic research indicates that at least some prehistoric Polynesians had roots in Asia. In a 1999 interview, however, Heyerdahl cited the 1992 discovery of thousand-year-old Peruvian carvings depicting large, ocean-going vessels as further evidence of his thesis. Heyerdahl also pointed out that South American plants such as sweet potatoes, which grow naturally in Polynesia, could only have been brought there by humans. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
LOCATION
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
7 Apr 1951.
---
Daily Variety
21 Mar 51
p. 4.
Film Daily
23 Mar 51
p. 6.
Hollywood Citizen-News
24 Oct 1951.
---
Hollywood Citizen-News
27 Oct 1951.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 Oct 50
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Mar 1951.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jul 1952.
---
Los Angeles Daily News
11 Jul 1951.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
25 Oct 1951.
---
Los Angeles Times
16 Oct 1950.
---
Los Angeles Times
11 Jul 1951.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
24 Mar 51
pp. 765-66.
New York Times
3 Apr 51
p. 31.
New York Times
4 Apr 51
p. 35.
Variety
21 Mar 51
p. 6.
Variety
5 Dec 1951.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
PRODUCER
Pres
WRITERS
Introduction
FILM EDITOR
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Art optical pictures
PRODUCTION MISC
Film technician
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific by Raft by Thor Heyerdahl, as translated by F. H. Lyon (Chicago, 1950).
DETAILS
Release Date:
April 1951
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 3 April 1951
Copyright Claimant:
Sol Lesser Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
3 April 1951
Copyright Number:
LP940
Physical Properties:
Sound
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
68 or 72-73
Length(in feet):
6,149
Length(in reels):
8
Countries:
Sweden, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
15143
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

This documentary chronicles the 1947 voyage of the Kon-Tiki , a balsawood raft built by Norwegian zoologist and ethnologist Thor Heyerdahl and his five-member crew--civil engineer Herman Watzinger; radio operators and decorated Norwegian war heroes Knut Haugland and Torstein Raaby; navigator Erik Hesselberg; and Bengt Danielsson, a Swedish ethnologist. Heyerdahl explains that the purpose of the expedition is to test his thesis that Stone Age Indians living on the coast of Peru migrated to Polynesia in balsa rafts equipped with sails. Using maps and diagrams, Heyerdahl describes how trade winds in the southern Pacific always move in a northwesterly direction, creating a consistent current from South America to the Marquesas Islands. Heyerdahl states that he had earlier noticed similarities between ancient statues found in the Marquesas and in Peru and postulates that, with the help of trade winds, Incan sailors could have made the 5,000 mile voyage across the Pacific. After noting that descriptions of Incan rafts contained in journals of Spanish conquistadors were used as guides, Heyerdahl reveals how the Kon-Tiki , named for the Incan sun god, was constructed from nine large balsa logs topped by a bamboo platform. Heyerdahl then details the boat's launch from Callejo, Peru, and its 101 day journey across the ocean. The crew's daily life is seen, including the catching and cooking of fish, storing of water and repairing of lashings and other raft parts. Diversions such as whale watching, diving and singing, and dangers such as sharks are shown. The workings of a ham radio, which enables the men to maintain contact with cohorts in Norway and Los Angeles, are demonstrated. As the ... +


This documentary chronicles the 1947 voyage of the Kon-Tiki , a balsawood raft built by Norwegian zoologist and ethnologist Thor Heyerdahl and his five-member crew--civil engineer Herman Watzinger; radio operators and decorated Norwegian war heroes Knut Haugland and Torstein Raaby; navigator Erik Hesselberg; and Bengt Danielsson, a Swedish ethnologist. Heyerdahl explains that the purpose of the expedition is to test his thesis that Stone Age Indians living on the coast of Peru migrated to Polynesia in balsa rafts equipped with sails. Using maps and diagrams, Heyerdahl describes how trade winds in the southern Pacific always move in a northwesterly direction, creating a consistent current from South America to the Marquesas Islands. Heyerdahl states that he had earlier noticed similarities between ancient statues found in the Marquesas and in Peru and postulates that, with the help of trade winds, Incan sailors could have made the 5,000 mile voyage across the Pacific. After noting that descriptions of Incan rafts contained in journals of Spanish conquistadors were used as guides, Heyerdahl reveals how the Kon-Tiki , named for the Incan sun god, was constructed from nine large balsa logs topped by a bamboo platform. Heyerdahl then details the boat's launch from Callejo, Peru, and its 101 day journey across the ocean. The crew's daily life is seen, including the catching and cooking of fish, storing of water and repairing of lashings and other raft parts. Diversions such as whale watching, diving and singing, and dangers such as sharks are shown. The workings of a ham radio, which enables the men to maintain contact with cohorts in Norway and Los Angeles, are demonstrated. As the Kon-Tiki nears the first coral-ringed islands of Polynesia, Heyerdahl describes efforts to steer the raft toward land: When the current proves too strong, the boat sails past the first two islands until, buffeted by breakers, it crashes on the shore of a third, deserted island. The men disembark and, salvaging what they can from the wrecked Kon-Tiki , make radio contact. A week after landing, they are discovered by a passing Polynesian boat. The Polynesians recognize the Kon-Tiki as an ancient sailing vessel and tell the Europeans about the legendary tribes who once traveled in them. Later, the crew is taken to Tahiti, where Heyerdahl reunites with a tribal chief who adopted him on a previous visit. In honor of their successful voyage, seeds brought from South America are planted, and native women dance the hula. Heyerdahl concludes the film by reiterating his theory that consistent trade winds and currents make long sea voyages in primitive but sturdy boats possible. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.