by Jack Nilan            EMail :

Nanook of the North (1922)

Jack   A-

IMDB    7.9

Tribe(s) : Inuit

Language : Silent



   Robert Flaherty filmed this, the first non-fiction feature length movie, in 1922. Flaherty has been criticized for setting up some of the scenes and distorting some of the actual facts. Flaherty encouraged Nanook (actually Allakariallak) to hunt with older Inuit weapons, even though he mostly hunted with a gun. The movie also says that Nanook died a few years after filming, starving to death while hunting, which was not true. The film is sort of a mix of neo-realism and documentary. One of the first scenes had Nanook and his family coming out of kayak like boat. Most of the family were laying down on the inside, totally enclosed and hidden from the world.

   The movie has one great scene after another. Spear fishing, the communal walrus hunt, the fox hunting scene, the igloo building scene, and the great seal hunting scene are just amazing to watch. It's a lifestyle that is so different from ours that it is hard to even imagine. The movie very effectively coveys the dangers and hostility the environment presented to the Inuits and it seems almost miraculous that they could really live like that.

   Whether staged or real, the film is wonderful. As long as you go in to the film knowing that it is really just a re-creation, although a very accurate one, of the way the Inuits lived used to live. And it's great to see a movie about Native Americans where they are living peacefully and happily.