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RAI Film Seminar: Revisiting Nanook at 100 years

To mark the centenary of Nanook of the North (1922) this seminar considers the legacy of one of the most important landmarks of documentary film history. What started as a collaborative effort of Robert Flaherty and the Inuit of Inukjuak (ᐃᓄᒃᔪᐊᒃ) in northern Quebec, Canada, eventually launched Flaherty’s career as the “father” of documentary film. Nanook started out with a hugely popular commercial release and decades followed of celebratory praise for the brilliance of its cinematography and extraordinary film-making process. However, the film has also become a lightning rod for critique and debate because of its “faked scenes”, imperial approach, paternalism and racial stereotypes that misrepresent the Inuit people and their way of life.

With so much written about Nanook, there is one glaring absence in film scholarship that has yet to be adequately addressed. Flaherty was only a visitor amongst the Inuit who stayed for several years, fathered at least one child, then left to make an illustrious film career elsewhere and never returned. However, many of the Inuit of Inukjuak, including Flaherty’s direct descendants, faced forcible relocation by the Canadian Government, alienation in residential schools and decades of hardship, whilst Nanook the film was being celebrated.
In this seminar, we ask what can we learn about Nanook’s legacy from the Inuit community and the descendants of Flaherty’s Inuit children?

Hugh Brody will share his reflections of his ethnographic research in the same area where Nanook was filmed from his recent book, Landscapes of Silence (2022).

And Kirk French will present a short film he helped prepare for the Nanook Centennial Committee in Inukjuak as part of their 100-year celebration. He will discuss his ongoing and larger film project called, A Century After Nanook.

Dec 7, 2022 05:00 PM in London

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