NANOOK OF THE NORTH (1922) 79 minutes. Presented by Professor Tom Rankin, Director of the Center for Documentary Studies.
Robert J. Flaherty, who wrote, directed, produced, shot, and edited this landmark picture, will forever be remembered as the godfather of documentary filmmaking. While this landmark 1922 production, shot on the northeastern shore of Hudson Bay, isn't a true documentary by contemporary conventions, it remains the first great nonfiction film. With the help of Nanook and his friends and family, Flaherty undertook the mission of re-creating an Eskimo culture that no longer existed in a series of staged scenes. Nanook ice fishes, harpoons a walrus, catches a seal, traps, builds an igloo, and trades pelts at a trading post, all captured by Flaherty's inquisitive camera. Though he presents a "happy" culture bordering on primitive innocence (Nanook and his family were in reality quite westernized), his loving portrait is anything but condescending. Ultimately Flaherty shares his tremendous respect and awe for a culture that has learned to not just survive but thrive in such an inhospitable environment. On a purely visual level the film is a beautiful work of cinema, an understated drama in an austere, unblemished landscape of snow and ice. With unerring simplicity and directness, Flaherty re-creates the details and rhythms of a culture long gone and gives the world a glimpse. --Sean Axmaker
Added by monikaatnta on September 1, 2010