0014: Nanook of the North (1922)

Nanook of the North.jpg

Rating: 6.5/10

This movie was a bit of a surprise. I’ve heard about it a lot and what you always hear is how things weren’t very accurately depicted, and then someone always mentions the scene where Nanook tries to take a bite out of a music record but that scene was entirely staged. It’s true that it was staged, but this was a time before we had a thousand documentaries coming out a day on Netflix alone. All the things the director did, like staging scenes and passing it off as real life documentation is now considered amoral. Then though, there weren’t any standards for the genre, and though this isn’t the first of its kind, it is the first that was as popular as it was.

What it shows is the story of a man and his family. Though much of the action was staged, it was done so as real as it could manage. They might have hunted with guns at the time and using spears and such was “acted out”, but the Inuits still made the spears and used them to hunt a real walrus for this movie. This was perhaps showing how things were for them in a distant yesteryear but it was still all the Inuits doing everything that they still knew how to do, even though they didn’t have to learn it anymore.

So, a “realistic” docudrama is what we get with this movie, though packaged as the real thing, which isn’t cool. But it’s forgivable because the director didn’t know any better? I guess?

This was enjoyable and fun to watch. It was a good start to documentaries as a whole though, even though it isn’t the first one it’s the first anyone took notice of. It’s only downfall is that it’s not entirely real. If it said somewhere that this was a fictionalized reenactment of how things once were for these people rather than trying to tell them that this is how things are at the time of filming I would have forgiven it for that. I guess people probably preferred it this way at the time, but now I think I would have preferred a more accurate telling of the Inuit people in the 1920s than a fictionalized retelling of it.

Why you should watch it before you die: It is the first modern type documentary, even if it doesn’t share the ethics of modern documentary filmmakers. Check it out if you like documentaries though.


+7.5: a good movie and enjoyable to watch

-1: passing fiction off as reality

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