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Nanook of the North (1922)

vikiwalden | Wednesday May 13, 2009

Categories: Other Topics, Documentaries, Nanook

Early documentary consisted of actualites, first produced by the Luminere Brothers at the beginning of cinema, they were visual attractions which showed small fragments of life. After this came the Travelogues and Newsreels during the early days of the studio system. Travelogues were often commissioned by governments or tourist boards and showed exotic places moving past the audience.

Robert Flaherty - Nanook of the North (1921)

Nanook of the North is seen as the first feature length documentary, directed by Robert Flaherty (1922), former explorer and prospector with little prior training in Cinematography. It demonstrated that fictional techniques could be successfully employed in the documentary as well. Flaherty borrowed techniques from narrative film practice to powerful effect.

Moving beyond the picturesque detachment of the conventional travelogue, Nanook of the North had a commercially successful run on Broadway (as the second feature to Grandma’s Boy dir. Fred Newmeyer, 1922). The preface to the video states ‘it is generally regarded as the work from which all subsequent efforts to bring real life to the screen have stemmed.’

However the bias and incorrect representation of the Western world’s stereotypical view of his subjects has been criticised. Nanook of the North follows Nanook and his Inuits family going about their daily lives.

Much of the action was ‘performed’ for the camera, so that Flaherty could get all the footage he required perfectly.

Though there was some typical behaviour ie. Lighting campfires, paddling kayaks, trapping foxes, Flaherty made the village men hunt Walruses with harpoons (incredibly dangerous) even though the men now used guns.

He underplayed the complexity of the social structures and cultural traditions of the people. He also underplayed the extent to which Western Civilisation had encroached upon their traditions.

The film was sponsored/ commissioned by Revillon Fur, a French Fur...


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