Nanook of the North (1922)
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Movie InfoAfter spending nearly eight years planning an "eskimo picture", documentary filmmaker Robert J. Flaherty brought the project to fruition with the help of fur merchants Revillon Freres, who pumped $50,000 into Flaherty's budget. Promoted as an authentic record of eskimo life in the Far North, Nanook of the North occasionally sacrifices total authenticity for the sake of entertainment. The igloo exteriors are patently phony (they had to be, to allow for proper lighting), while some of the action highlights, notably a harpooning sequence, were pieced together from disconnected vignettes lensed over a series of days, even weeks. Even so, the film is an invaluable study of a near-extinct race's ongoing battle for survival against the elements. Nanook himself was an engaging, natural on-screen presence, especially in the famous scene wherein the leather-skinned eskimo laughs with glee as his listens to a record player. Nanook of the North was picked up for distribution by Pathe in 1922, proving an enormous financial success. Ironically, Nanook starved to death shortly after the film's release, a victim of the forces of nature that he had so masterfully fended off on film. … More
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Critic Reviews for Nanook of the North
Flaherty wasn't much of an ethnologist -- he routinely staged scenes for his camera and insisted that his subjects return to traditions they'd abandoned generations before -- yet he was a master dramatist.
Despite the comparatively primitive technique and the natural difficulties of shooting a film in the frozen Hudson Bay wastelands, every minute of Nanook lives up to its reputation.
These characters are plainly 'playing' themselves, and scenes such as the igloo-building manifest a sage grace and skill.
Nanook is one of the most vital and unforgettable human beings ever recorded on film.
That it wasn't exactly accurate does not obscure its importance as a cinematic milestone and a depiction of a vanishing way of life.
By virtue of its timeless setting and straightforward approach to its subject, this portrait of the daily lives of an Eskimo man and his family is probably the least dated of any silent film extant.
Flaherty's classic, influential documentary still fascinates.
Além de ser um fascinante retrato da árdua vida dos esquimós, este clássico ainda deve ser lembrado por ter praticamente originado o gênero documentário.
While still criticized for its creative distortions, Flaherty's groundbreaking documentary of Eskimo life is among the most important films of the silent era.
Nanook's life, mainly concerning the perpetual quest for food as his family teeters on starvation, doesn't offer a lot of variety, but blisteringly real images like this don't come along any more these days.
Nanook of the North is considered to be the first documentary ever made and is a truly joyous film experience.
Although in some scenes it's pretty obvious that igloos have been constructed by the set designer rather than the Eskimos, there's a real beauty and an authenticity that renders these details insignificant.
Audience Reviews for Nanook of the North
This is widely regarded as the first significant nonfiction feature film, and this was made during the days before the term documentary came into existence. That makes this film significant and of interest, but even more of interest is the film's legacy, which happens to be steeped in controversy.
First, a quick rundown of the plot: what we get is the story of an Inuit fisherman named Nanook who lives with his family up in the far reaches of Northern Canada. Robert Flaherty, the director, presents us basically with a series of sequences of Nanook and his family and companions going about their daily lives and trying to survive the harsh wilderness.
Flaherty started out as a prospector and explorer, and, after spending a lot of time among Inuits, decided to get a camera and make a formal recording of their lives.
Here's where things gets tricky. This was made in the late 1910s/early 1920s, and it presents things as if they are happening in the present. In reality, this film depicts the Inuit culture of days gone by, but makes it seem like things aren't as modern as they actually were at the time. Now, given how documentaries as we know them didn't exist at the time, Flaherty was more or less able to get away with the use of staged sequences.
In this day and age though, he'd be in a crap load of trouble for this kind of thing. So yeah, don;t think of this as a documentary in the modern sense, but look at is as a docudrama-that's a more fitting term. And what also makes the film worthwhile, again, has to do with its age. At that time, not as much was known about various ethnic groups and cultures, especially when there was no internet, so this film works as a nice cultural piece, even if Flaherty's nostalgia goggles for the 'glory days' of Inuit life are presented as 'present'.
Despite the dark spots, this is a pretty neat little film in its own right. It's simple and straightforward, but nevertheless engaging, fun, and even charming. It might not be perfect, especially due to it's tainted legacy, but I think that, even then, it's worth a look.
As far as documentaries go, "Nanook of the North" is a great one! It tells the true story of an inuit family who scavenges to find food and shelter. Having a smart father helps, when he is able to build his family an igloo. With luck, they are able to find fish, walruses, and seals. It is fun to watch this at times, as the children of the family have a fun old time, trying to create tobaggans to slide down the hills while their father is at work; However, the things that make this film a little hard to watch, is the fact that you are forced to watch as the starving family has no time to cook their food once it is caught, due to starvation. This film features some far out camera shots, expressing the isolation of these real-life people. It has the feel of a classic silent film and the directing is great. The only fault with this film is that it focuses too much one aspect of their journey. Otherwise, this is a terrific documentary!More
A ground-breaking documentary on the life of a family of "Eskimos" as they try to survive in the cold of a Hudson Bay winter. Robert Flaherty gave the world an insight into the lives of a people unlike any they had seen before. This film is the grandfather of every "Day in the Life" doc since. It's said that many of the scenes were staged -- some by necessity due to the limitations of filmmaking of the time -- but that doesn't take away from the impact of the film.
Most parts of the family's life is on display...eating, hunting, play and sleeping all play a part in this film. Particularly fascinating is the footage on building an igloo from blocks of packed snow, including a "window" made from clear ice. They even made a tiny igloo for a litter of puppies! One humorous scene shows Nanook, the head of the family, getting out of a kayak, with his entire family -- wife Nyla, another woman (mom, sister?), three children and a dog following right behind. Funny because they all crawled out of the bottom of a boat that appeared to hold only one person.
If this film has any flaws, it's that I wanted to know more about these people and their lives. What were their clothes made of? Where did they go to the bathroom? What language did they speak? Did the children go to school?
One cautionary note: There are several scenes of apparent cruelty to animals, including sled dogs left out in brutally cold weather, and graphic scenes of hunting and butchering animals, and the eating of raw animal flesh.
A fascinating film that hasn't lost its power even after nearly 90 years.
I think it's a very interesting look into the life of an Eskimo, however, it has no purpose at all. For it's time i'm sure it was captivating and insightful, but when you look at it as a documentary/film it is terrible. There is no sense of pacing and it's just a complete mess. While I understand its place in film history and documentaries, I just don't think it is a good film in itself.More
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