[Marxism] Fwd: Nanook of the North, revisited | Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist
lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Apr 2 11:14:29 MDT 2016
Introducing a screening of Robert J. Flaherty’s 1922 masterpiece “Nanook
of the North” at the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian in New
York on March 3rd, 2013 Inuit throat-singer Tanya Tagaq–there to provide
musical accompaniment– warned the audience that her people were not
cheerful despite the words that appear near the beginning:
The sterility of the soil and the rigor of the climate no other race
could survive; yet here, utterly dependent upon animal life, which is
their sole source of food, live the most cheerful people in all the
world–the fearless, lovable, happy-go-lucky Eskimo.
When Flaherty began filming, the word documentary did not exist. If
required to depict the Inuit in cinéma vérité fashion, the director
would never have bothered since his professed goal was to show the Inuit
as they lived before they became corrupted by outside civilization. This
meant, for example, directing Nanook to hunt seals with a handcrafted
harpoon rather than a rifle that was customary at the time.
In a 1990 documentary titled “Nanook Revisited” that does aspire to
historical accuracy and that is unfortunately only available from
research libraries today, the production team went to Inukjuak, the
village in northern Quebec where Flaherty shot his film, to interview
relatives of Nanook’s contemporaries as well as knowledgeable villagers.
The manager of the local television station Moses Nowkawalk was both
amused and annoyed by inaccuracies. For example, Flaherty had Nanook
looking mystified by a phonograph player and taking a bite out of a
record but Nowkawalk points out that the villagers had been listening to
records for years. A cruder version of this scene took place in the 1980
narrative film “The Gods Must Be Crazy” with Kalahari Bushmen worshiping
a Coke bottle tossed out of a airplane.
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