Nanook of the North

Nanook of the North

“The mysterious Barren Lands - desolate, boulder-strewn, wind-swept - illimitable spaces which top the world”

I stumbled across Nanook of the North while looking for a documentary on Inuit lifestyle and culture without realising that it is believed to be the very first documentary/docudrama feature film; pioneered by director Robert J. Flaherty who combined footage with text to present audiences with a supposedly first-hand, realistic glimpse at the life of an Inuk. 

Since it’s release it’s been subject to a range of criticisms as the information it depicts as fact is often staged or exaggerated; omitting certain details to make the people seem less aware of modern technology and manufacturing certain events to add tension and interest to its story. Despite this it’s hard to argue that it makes the film less significant, working around the truth and carefully selecting what is shown to portray its subjects and narrative in a very positive and engaging way - ironically very similar to how documentary films are typically made today.

Although it isn’t as authentic as it claims to be its hard not to appreciate its skilful presentation and influence over the form, sacrificing exact truth for audience engagement in a way that isn’t educational but is so fascinating from a historical perspective.

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