Nanook of the North (1922)

Essay by imhana88High School, 12th gradeA-, June 2006

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Robert J. Flaherty's non-fiction, silent documentary film, "Nanook of the North (1922)" was about the everyday life of Nanook, Nahla, his wife, Ollie his eldest son and Rainbow his youngest child. Their daily struggle to survive in a harsh and unforgiving environment of an icy land near Inukjuaq, on Hudson Bay in arctic Quebec, Canada Eskimos (Inuit) included hunting, fishing, trading, and migrating with little or no industrial technology. Flaherty took his camera to one of the most unexpected place to not only write, but also to direct, produce, shoot, and edit the whole film. The film contained many images that caught my attention as a viewer. It also brought the world a new style of filmmaking.

The film exposed lives of the people we don't see around, and so have only a little knowledge about. It also separated our differences and similarities as human beings. Spring resembled a fresh new start and winter resembled the opposite.

They worked individually for survival and with their community for more. They built igloos, traveled with the kayak, wore fur clothes and sealskin boots to keep warm, and hunted for fishes, polar bears, and walrus for food. They also valued each other as family, children played in the snow, father taught son hunting, mother bathed children, and dogs helped the family hunt.

I personally think Nanook is the hero of the film. He was a master hunter, skilled fishermen, and an architect who was patient while hunting and loving toward his family. He protected and provided clothing and food for them. This beautiful cultural film was all possible with Flaherty's one year of efforts and patience. Unlike many other film writers, he insisted on shooting a natural film. He also shoots and picks up many things he probably did not recognize while shooting.