Nanook of the North (1922)

Documentary | 11 June 1922

Director:

Robert Flaherty

Writer:

Robert Flaherty

Cinematographer:

Robert Flaherty

Production Company:

Revillon Frères
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HISTORY

According to the 8 May 1915 Motion Picture News, the 6 May 1922 Exhibitors Trade Review, and the Oct 1922 Educational Screen, director Robert Flaherty, a member of the Royal Geographical Society, was leader of five Sir William Mackenzie expeditions that explored Canada’s North Hudson Bay region. Flaherty spent ten years creating scientific records and living among a small tribe of Inuit Eskimos who inhabited the Ungava Peninsula of the Labrador Peninsula. Between 1913 and 1914, Flaherty apprenticed as a cameraman as part of the expedition, and “shot 30,000 feet of amateurish negative on [Eskimo] life,” as stated in the Educational Screen. When the negatives were accidentally burned during editing, “it saved the public a poor film,” according to Flaherty. However, seeing the value of such a picture, Flaherty and his funder, Revillon Freres, a fur-trading company, prepared for a more elaborate reshoot. A fully outfitted expedition embarked in 1920 to begin production in Cape Dufferin.
       The picture was made over the course of two winters and two summers, as noted in the 3 Jun 1922 Exhibitors Herald.
       On 6 May 1922, Exhibitors Trade Review announced that Pathe had acquired the film for world distribution. Famed South Pole explorer, Captain Roald Amundson, was invited to attend a special screening, and agreed that Nanook of the North was a “wonderful picture.”
       Nanook of the North received praise from reviews, including the Aug 1922 Photodramatist, which deemed the film “a masterpiece.”
       Despite its groundbreaking contribution to the documentary genre, various modern sources, including the 1990 documentary Nanook Revisted, criticized Flaherty for ... More Less

According to the 8 May 1915 Motion Picture News, the 6 May 1922 Exhibitors Trade Review, and the Oct 1922 Educational Screen, director Robert Flaherty, a member of the Royal Geographical Society, was leader of five Sir William Mackenzie expeditions that explored Canada’s North Hudson Bay region. Flaherty spent ten years creating scientific records and living among a small tribe of Inuit Eskimos who inhabited the Ungava Peninsula of the Labrador Peninsula. Between 1913 and 1914, Flaherty apprenticed as a cameraman as part of the expedition, and “shot 30,000 feet of amateurish negative on [Eskimo] life,” as stated in the Educational Screen. When the negatives were accidentally burned during editing, “it saved the public a poor film,” according to Flaherty. However, seeing the value of such a picture, Flaherty and his funder, Revillon Freres, a fur-trading company, prepared for a more elaborate reshoot. A fully outfitted expedition embarked in 1920 to begin production in Cape Dufferin.
       The picture was made over the course of two winters and two summers, as noted in the 3 Jun 1922 Exhibitors Herald.
       On 6 May 1922, Exhibitors Trade Review announced that Pathe had acquired the film for world distribution. Famed South Pole explorer, Captain Roald Amundson, was invited to attend a special screening, and agreed that Nanook of the North was a “wonderful picture.”
       Nanook of the North received praise from reviews, including the Aug 1922 Photodramatist, which deemed the film “a masterpiece.”
       Despite its groundbreaking contribution to the documentary genre, various modern sources, including the 1990 documentary Nanook Revisted, criticized Flaherty for reenacting most of the sequences. In addition, he fictionalized the characters, including “Nanook,” who was actually named Allakariallak, and his two wives. The women were reportedly Flaherty’s mistresses, and one of them, “Nyla,” whose real name was Maggie Nujarlutuk, bore him a son named Josephie, whom Flaherty never met. Josephie was eventually adopted by Paddy Aqiatusuk, a renowned soapstone sculptor who married Maggie Nujarlutuk. The production team of the 1990 documentary traveled to Inukjuak, Quebec, the village where Flaherty’s film was shot. Years later, Josphie’s daughter, Martha Flaherty, became the subject of a Canadian documentary film titled Martha of the North (2008), which examined the atrocities that her family suffered in 1953 when the Canadian government forced Paddy Aqiatusuk and eighty-seven Inuits to move further north to Ellesmere Island, where they struggled to survive in the inhospitable environment.
       Film Year Book 1922-1923 named Nanook of the North one of “The Ten Best” pictures of 1922. This film was re-issued in 1948 with a newly written narration by Ralph Schoolman, spoken by Berry Kroger, and with an original score by famed conductor Rudolf R. A. Schramm. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Exhibitors Herald
6 May 1922
p. 67.
Exhibitors Herald
3 Jun 1922
p. 58.
Exhibitors Trade Review
6 May 1922.
---
Exhibitors Trade Review
24 Jun 1922
p. 241.
Film Daily
18 Jun 1922.
---
Film Year Book
1922-1923
p. 349.
Motion Picture News
8 May 1915
p. 124.
Moving Picture World
24 Jun 1922
p. 735.
New York Times
12 Jun 1922
p. 16.
Photodramatist
Aug 1922
p. 13.
The Educational Screen
Oct 1922
pp. 259-260.
Variety
16 Jun 1922
p. 40.
Variety
1 Sep 1948
p. 14.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT

NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
WRITERS
Scen and titles
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
FILM EDITOR
Asst film ed
DETAILS
Release Date:
11 June 1922
Copyright Claimant:
Pathé Exchange, inc.
Copyright Date:
17 May 1922
Copyright Number:
LU17888
Physical Properties:
Silent
Black and White
Length(in reels):
6
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Nanook and his family typify Eskimo life in the Arctic. Their continuous search for food necessitates their nomadic life. In the summer they journey to the river to fish for salmon and hunt walrus. In the winter they often approach starvation before any food is found. At night the entire family assists in building an igloo, then crawl under fur robes to sleep, using their clothes for pillows. In the morning the quest ... +


Nanook and his family typify Eskimo life in the Arctic. Their continuous search for food necessitates their nomadic life. In the summer they journey to the river to fish for salmon and hunt walrus. In the winter they often approach starvation before any food is found. At night the entire family assists in building an igloo, then crawl under fur robes to sleep, using their clothes for pillows. In the morning the quest continues. +

GENRE
Genre:
Sub-genre:
Educational/cultural


Subject

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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