In this blend of documentary and fictional narrative from pioneering filmmaker Robert Flaherty, the everyday trials of life on Ireland's unforgiving Aran Islands are captured with attention to naturalistic beauty and historical detail.
Robert J. Flaherty
Colman 'Tiger' King,
Terje Vigen, a sailor, suffers the loss of his family through the cruelty of another man. Years later, when his enemy's family finds itself dependent on Terje's beneficence, Terje must ... See full summary »
After his success with Nanook of the North (1922), director Robert J. Flaherty was asked by studio chief Jesse L. Lasky (who would soon head Paramount) to make the same kind of film he had in the Artic, except this time in the South Seas. Thus was this "sequel" conceived. The film was a commercial success in Europe, but not in the US. See more »
Moana was filmed in Samoa in the villages of Safune district on the island of Savai'i. The name of the lead male character, moana means 'deep water' in the Samoan language. In making the film, Flaherty lived with his wife and collaborator Frances and their three daughters in Samoa for more than a year. Flaherty arrived in Samoa in April 1923 and stayed until December 1924, with the film being completed in December 1925.
The youngest of the children Robert and Frances Flaherty brought with them to Samoa was their then-3-year-old daughter Monica. In 1975, Monica Flaherty returned to Savai'i to create a soundtrack for her parents' hitherto-silent film, including recording ambient sounds of village life, dubbed Samoan dialogue and traditional singing. The resulting "Moana with Sound" was completed in 1980, with help from filmmakers Jean Renoir and Richard Leacock, and first shown publicly in Paris in 1981.
The version I saw on Netflix was the sound version, and I can hardly imagine watching it any other way. Although there may be dubbing and it is not the original cast, this does not seem to hurt the picture (especially because I cannot understand what they are saying).
Maybe this is "docufiction", but it still has some level of authenticity that could not longer be done today. Samoa of the 1920s is not Samoa of the 2010s. Even if some scenes are staged or a little bit fake, it captures the people in about as close to reality as is possible. And for that reason, it is worth seeing if you have an anthropological interest. (I feel like it is more realistic than "Nanook", at least.)
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