The legacy of Robert Flaherty (Nanook of the North, Moana) is examined through the eyes of the people whose parents and grandparents he put on the cinema screens of the world. A fascinating film about documentary ethics.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2011
Robert Flaherty has long been known as the Father of the Documentary, and he has just as long been a controversial figure, embodying a number of the form’s contradictions. The minute he chose to stage scenes in order to make a better film out of his Inuit project Nanook of the North, he was opening documentary’s Pandora’s Box. His later work in Samoa, the Aran Islands and Louisiana further explored such enduring topics of documentary ethics as ethnographic falsification, exploitation of one’s subjects and the perils of corporate sponsorship. This entertaining portrait of Flaherty shrewdly looks beyond standard polemical positions to present a complex view of the man and his work (shown in vivid excerpts). It addresses the controversies head on, augmenting testimony from Flaherty and his key collaborators with telling interviews with the people whose parents and grandparents he put onto the cinema screens of the world: Inuit, Samoans and, of obvious personal interest to the Irish filmmakers, the ‘wild men’ of Aran. — AL