Monday, August 23, 2010
Capsule Review: Nanook of the North (1922)
Considered the first feature length documentary, Nanook of the North dramatizes a number of events in the life of the Inuit Nanook and his family as they survive in the barren frozen tundra of northern Quebec. These events - ranging from Nanook's hunting of seals and other animals, to the building of an igloo - were all in some part staged for the cameras, even Nanook's family are not real and were chosen for their photogenic qualities. Of course, this sort of staged reality is nothing new to modern viewers raised on reality television, and it doesn't take anything away from the brilliant beauty of the desolate landscape, or the sheer wonder in the demonstrations of Nanook's skills. Nature documentaries up to present day have borrowed much of their structure from Robert J. Flaherty's film, and it remains essential viewing for those interested in the documentary form and its evolution.