History of documentary film. A truly pioneering attempt to lay the foundations of documentary narrative.
This amazing documentary follows the lives of an Inuk, Nanook, and his family as they travel, search for food, and trade in the Ungava Peninsula of northern Quebec, Canada. Nanook, his wife Nyla, and their family are introduced as fearless heroes who endure rigors no other race could survive. The audience sees Nanook, often with his family, hunt a walrus, build an igloo, go about his day, and perform other tasks.
In 1910 Flaherty was hired as an explorer and prospector along the Hudson Bay for the Canadian Pacific Railway. Learning about the lands and people there, Flaherty decided to bring a camera with him on his third expedition in 1913, but knowing nothing about film, Flaherty took a three-week course on cinematography in Rochester, New York.
Using a Bell & Howell camera, a portable developing and printing machine, and some lighting equipment, Flaherty spent 1914 and 1915 shooting hours of film of Inuit life. By 1916, Flaherty had enough footage that he began test screenings and was met with wide enthusiasm. However, in 1916, Flaherty dropped a cigarette onto the original camera negative (which was highly flammable nitrate stock) and lost 30,000 feet of film. With his first attempt ruined, Flaherty decided to not only return for new footage but also to refocus the film on one Inuit family as he felt his earlier footage was too much of a travelogue.
The building of the igloo is one of the most celebrated sequences in the film, but interior photography presented a problem. Building an igloo large enough for a camera to enter resulted in the dome collapsing, and when they finally succeeded in making the igloo it was too dark for photography. Instead, the images of the inside of the igloo in the film were actually shot in a special three-walled igloo for Flaherty's bulky camera so that there would be enough light for it to capture interior shots.
Flaherty dropped a cigarette onto the original camera negative and lost 30,000 feet of film. With his first attempt ruined, Flaherty decided to return to Canada for new footage.
Caspervek will premiere the soundtrack created for Nanook of the North in 2021. The score will be created for a mixed wind and string quintet ensemble.