Nanook of the North (1922)
Robert Flaherty made this wonderful film of Eskimo (Inuit) life following six years as an Arctic explorer for the Canadian Northern Railway. Flaherty seized upon the idea of structuring his movie around characters who reenacted episodes of their lives and participated in the shaping of the film. He was not trained as an anthropologist, but Flaherty wisely guides our discovery of the people and their activities, and ninety years later, Nanook of the North remains as completely engaging as it was in 1922, a huge influence on many ethnographic films that followed. This edition is mastered in high definition at the visually correct speed from the painstaking 35mm restoration of 1972, with a lovely orchestral score composed, compiled and conducted by Timothy Brock. Selected for the National Film Registry, 1989.
The Wedding of Palo
(Palos Brudefaerd) (1934)
Nanook’s obvious successor, is the last beautiful work of the famed Danish polar explorer and anthropologist Dr. Knud Rasmussen. Filmed in sound with an Inuit cast from the Angmagssalik district of east Greenland, Palo, like Nanook, documents a vanished lifestyle and uses Flaherty’s device of an appealing narrative; in this case, a story of two men who desire the same woman as wife. It is mastered in high definition and digitally restored from an original 35mm nitrate print in the collection of George Eastman House.
Nanook Revisited (Saumialuk) by Claude Massot, made in the same locations used by Flaherty, shows how Inuit life changed in the intervening decades. (it’s not that different from ours), how Flaherty consciously depicted a culture which was then already vanishing, and how Nanook is used today to teach the Inuit their heritage. Nanook Revisited was produced in 1988 on standard definition video for French television.
Dwellings of the Far North (1928) is the igloo-building sequence of Nanook re-edited and re-titled as an educational film.
Arctic Hunt (1913) and extended excerpts from Primitive Love (1927) are by Arctic explorer Frank E. Kleinschmidt.
Eskimo Hunters of Northwest Alaska (1949) by Louis de Rochemont shows many activities seen in Nanook thirty years after.
Face of the High Arctic (1959) depicts the ecology of the region.