A Film About a Family

Film scholar Lokke Heiss offers some typically astute comments about Robert Flaherty's landmark film Nanook of the North, which shows tonight at 5:30PM.  Lokke will be on hand for an introduction before the film and an audience discussion afterward.

"In anticipation of this year's True/False Film Festival, Ragtag 101 presents the film that started it all, Nanook of the North.

"From the very earliest film in 1895, a short scene of workers leaving the Lumière Factory, filmmakers had documented 'actualities,' scenes of real life. Soon, cameras were perched on the front of locomotives, dazzling audiences with scenes of mountain passes, and explorers added film cameras to their list of supplies, giving the travel lecture circuit an even more exciting way to describe far away lands that most of the audience could only dream about. So audiences came to Robert Flaherty's Nanook of the North thinking this would be another film about "daring-do" explorers conquering the frozen north.

"They were in for a big surprise--instead, they saw a film about a family--a family like any other--except in their harsh world of the frozen Hudson Bay they lived one mistake away from total catastrophe.

"With Nanook of the North, it was clear to the audiences they were watching something new, something exciting and different. So different there wasn't yet a name for what they were seeing. Director Robert Flaherty would go on to make a series of landmark films that would soon be labeled "documentaries." Other filmmakers would follow Flaherty's footsteps, and ninety years later, for all of its wonders, and its flaws, Nanook is still the work that sets the standard for an entire genre of filmmaking."