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Nanook Of The North

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Robert J. Flaherty is sometimes regarded as the father of the documentary thanks to the 1922 silent film Nanook Of The North, which has just been re-released in a restored version. An explorer and self-taught filmmaker, Flaherty followed the family of an Eskimo named Nanook over the course of one year, filming their unbelievably harsh but apparently satisfying existence. The footage he captured is often incredible, even if some of it was clearly tailored for the camera. Nanook and his wife Nyla go about their daily existence, hunting, fishing, trading, and building igloos with remarkable fortitude in the face of brutal surroundings. Part of what makes Nanook such a great film, and sets it apart from the work of too many filmmakers who followed Flaherty, is that it never condescends and never seems motivated by anything less than respect and admiration for the culture it portrays. An added poignance hangs over the film thanks to Flaherty's introduction, which announces that Nanook died of starvation two years after completion of filming. Nanook's worldwide success, as Flaherty's widow and co-editor Frances recounts in a brief television interview which supplements this tape, helped change the possibilities of film by showing that long-form non-fiction works are not only possible, but can be just as gripping as their fictional counterparts. This version restores the full director's cut to its proper running speed and adds a dramatic new score, helping make an already important film that much more enjoyable.