only magazine

↵ home

Nanook Of The North (1922)

Nanook Of The North

By Adam Thomas

Thursday September 1, 2005

Directed by Robert Flaherty

This would be a good spot to talk about Project Grizzly, the 1997 Canadian documentary about Troy Hurtubise who, after a near death grizzly attack, sets out to build a gigantic metallic suit to protect him from future attacks. But then again it’s also a good place to talk about DzigaVertov’s 1929 classic Man with a Movie Camera, which he made with the philosophy that the real power of the film camera was to capture life as it really is. But instead it’s Robert Flaherty’s 1922 film Nanook of the North, perhaps the first example of the true blending of fact and fiction. Coming years before the term documentary was even coined, Flaherty used actual Canadian Inuit to re-enact the traditional aspects of their lives in the Artic but told the story using conventional narrative techniques. Staging sets and scenes, we watch as they build igloos, sing songs, and go hunting. Many challenged that this sacrificed the films integrity, but for Flaherty, the heart of the film lay in exploring the relationship of man and nature especially in a difficult and unforgiving environment.