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Nanook of the North (1922)

Not Rated | | Documentary | 11 June 1922 (USA)
In this silent predecessor to the modern documentary, film-maker Robert J. Flaherty spends one year following the lives of Nanook and his family, Inuits living in the Arctic Circle.

Director:

Robert J. Flaherty
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Allakariallak Allakariallak ... Nanook (as Nanook)
Alice Nevalinga Alice Nevalinga ... Nanook's Wife - the Smiling One (as Nyla)
Cunayou Cunayou ... Cunayou -Nanook's Daughter
Allegoo Allegoo ... Allegoo - Nanook's Son
Camock Camock ... Camock - Nanook's Cat
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Storyline

Documents one year in the life of Nanook, an Eskimo (Inuit), and his family. Describes the trading, hunting, fishing and migrations of a group barely touched by industrial technology. Nanook of the North was widely shown and praised as the first full-length, anthropological documentary in cinematographic history. Written by <xaviermartin@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

inuit | kayak | igloo | canada | harpoon | See All (32) »

Taglines:

A story of life and love in the actual Arctic. See more »

Genres:

Documentary

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA | France

Release Date:

11 June 1922 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Nanuk der Eskimo See more »

Filming Locations:

Hudson Bay, Québec, Canada See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$53,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (TCM print)

Sound Mix:

Silent

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The claim that Allakariallak died of starvation in 1922, months after the film was completed, is untrue; he did not starve but likely succumbed to tuberculosis. See more »

Quotes

Title Card: The most desired of all meat is that of seal. It affords the maximum of warmth and sustenance. The "blubber-eating Eskimo" is a misconception. Blubber they use as we use butter.
See more »

Crazy Credits

A story of life and love in the actual arctic. See more »

Alternate Versions

Remastered with image enhancement, speed correction and a new score in 1998 See more »

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User Reviews

Powerful and memorable even after 80 years!
19 March 2002 | by emboffSee all my reviews

Years ago, in high school, I had to sit through a creaky, dim and dirty, silent black and white documentary about some Eskimo. I remember nothing of the film except that I didn't like it. Today, I had the opportunity to see a recently restored and nicely scored re-release of that film: Nanook of the North. After all the National Geographic, Nova, PBS and Discovery Channel documentaries I have seen over the years chronicling the lives of aboriginal bands of people, (aboriginal people often wearing Coca-Cola T-shirts and baseball caps), this classic 1922 epic is the best I've ever seen showing a happy people working desperately to survive in an incomprehensibly harsh environment. It is quite a compliment to the film and its subject that it retains so much power almost 80 years after it was created. The film simply documents a small group of Inuit and their children in northeast Canada as they struggle to live from day to day. That these people survive at all, let alone remain a seemingly happy, life-loving team in such a place is mind-boggling. So many of the brutally realistic scenes in this wonderful film remind me of how sterilized many contemporary documentaries have become. We see the necessary brutality of finding, stalking and killing your food. Then slicing up your kill right there on the ice and eating it where it died. We witness Nanook harpooning and then `reeling in' a walrus, catching fish with no hook and no real bait and somehow knowing where to dig a tiny hole in the ice. Then, through that tiny hole, he spears and battles to bring in a seal. And he succeeds. But more than the environment and more than the struggle, what keeps us watching this film is character. Nanook is the chief of the small tribe and the father in the main family that is followed. He is smart, curious, inventive, determined and, at the core, a happy, gregarious character that we learn to laugh with, root for and celebrate with as he keeps his family fed. His children are an absolute delight, playful and endearing, seemingly oblivious to the awful world in which they live. The film seems to have no artifice at all and everything seems to be a regular part of their life with little attention paid to the camera. If you are a lover of the documentary form, you cannot miss this re-release. It appears to have been struck from a near pristine negative and restored to its original length of somewhere over 65 minutes. The pleasant score is not too obtrusive and sounds as though it may be a reconstruction of the score composed for the theatrical re-release of the film in 1939, but the credits aren't completely clear on that. See this film.


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