Sunday, January 17, 2010

Nanook of the North (1922) **


Members of PETA beware--this is not the film for you.

Is it a true documentary or not? That is the question that has plagued many over the years. If you're like me, you first saw this 1922 Robert Flaherty silent in a film history class. An endless debate was held in my class as to whether the filming looked "too staged" to be a true representation of the life of an Inuit family. Perhaps it was staged at times, but I still think Flaherty does a nice job of showing what daily survival was like for Nanook and his family. I still get the shivers when I think of all that ice and snow!

nanuuk-731216 I'm mostly impressed with Flaherty's camerawork in harsh weather conditions. He was not working with state of the art equipment and he was pretty much the film crew. The walrus hunt and igloo building scenes are interesting to watch. Of course, what most people remember about this film is the closing shot where Nanook's family is looking for shelter against a snowstorm. In an odd twist of fate, they died soon after filming was completed doing just this.

Not exactly an exciting film, but still an interesting one to watch.


  1. Or did they? I agree that much of this picture looks authentic, but there was also a lot of manipulation involved. The Inuit were asked to put away modern utensils and revert to ancient practices for the camera, the characters are not who they are claimed to be (Naonooks wife is not his wife at all) and the death of Nanook and his family? I was a story seeded by the studio to generate interest. And it worked.

    despite all this I still love this picture. It is a charming Michael Moore stunt 80 years before it became a trend.

    1. I expect Flaherty would not be happy being compared with M. Moore--but it is an apt one! I did not know about the utensils or the wife who wasn't the wife--very interesting.