Saturday, April 12, 2008

14. Nanook Of The North - 1922

Director: Robert S. Flaherty

Synopsis: "Documentary" of an Itivimuit named "Nanook."

Review: Once a documentary's validity is in question, you have to question all of it (take note Michael Moore). Flaherty had lived with Inuits for years and filmed them. The film was unintersting according to Flaherty, but it was destroyed anyway. When making Nanook Of The North, he decided to make a better movie. How so?
The scenes are staged. The traditional clothing was no longer used. They had rifles. That isn't Nanook's wife. Nanook's real name is Allakariallak. Many of the things Nanook demonstrated had passed out of use. Some of the things Nanook demonstrated had to be taught to him by Flaherty. And so on. So, I don't consider this a documentary proper.

That's not to say Nanook couldn't have done this stuff. He clearly knew how to build an igloo. The walrus hunt seemed pretty realistic. The seal hunt is obviously staged (crew members pulled the rope themselves since the seal was all ready dead). Flaherty was attempting to recreate a mostly dead lifestyle before no one with any experience could. So, I think that there is some merit to this "documentary."

The other merit is that it's highly enjoyable. Nanook himself is so natural in his role that you'll forget that this is staged and simply enjoy it. Whether he's killing an all ready dead seal or biting a record, he comes across as completely believable.

Documentary or not, this is flat out a fun watch. Since it's public domain and available online (transfer stolen from Criterion), watch it here.

Score: 7/10

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