Nanook of the North

Nanook of the North

1922, History  -   42 Comments
Ratings: 8.17/10 from 24 users.

Nanook of the NorthNanook of the North was filmed from 1920-1921 in Port Harrison, Northern Quebec by Robert Joseph Flaherty.

This was the first successful documentary ever made, and was a true benchmark for ethnographic film.

Robert Flaherty brought and entirely unknown culture to the western world.

Documents one year in the life of Nanook, an Eskimo (Inuit) and his family.

Describes the trading, hunting, fishing and migrations of a group barely touched by industrial technology.

Nanook of the North was widely shown and praised as the first full-length, anthropological documentary in cinematographic history.

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42 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Kiana

    I dont thinknour rules today apply to 100 yrs ago... while I see the signs of staging and cuts too it's of no significance compared to the glimpse into Inuit practices... even if they are staged

  2. Todd

    Awesome doc,makes you appreciate the hardships these people endured on a daily baisis,sad that he died less than 2 years later

  3. Scott Gordon

    I watched this documentary when I was in 6th grade and again a few years ago. I did not realize it was the first documentary. I enjoyed the movie very educational

  4. Cynthia Marie Hurt

    An amazing look into our past. One of my very favorite and recommended films.

  5. Jason Wheeler

    I found this documentary to be very interesting. Seeing how the life of the Inuit back in that time era really shows how different people live depending on their location. Although this film was staged it still shows how the people lived and survived there. I believe that if it had not been staged to a limit the film wouldn't of been able to get the point across as strong as Flaherty would of wanted.

  6. Roxie Neal

    This movie is not my favorite. Apparently, this movie was suppose to give us information about actual things that Nanook and his family did to survive... well actually, this film... most of it was staged which was degrading. Nanooks "family" was not really his family... the boat scene was just ridiculous. Sure they did the things on the film but as an experienced producer I saw plenty of cuts and remakes of that film especially of the boat scene where u can see plenty of times where they stopped filming after every person got out of the boat... hence the inter-titlers (they needed some sort of pause to make that edit in the movie)... There were some parts where I liked the hunting and the making of the igloo but overall this movie was not a documentary... I believe if anything it was a normal dramatic northern Eskimo fiction/non-fiction movie

    1. lakhotason

      The movie you might wish to watch is "The Far Runner" It will make you feel as if you were in the Arctic with the Inuit.

    2. Sophie Kornmehl

      I dont think it was meant to look like everyone came out of the boat. It was just a little character introduction effect that was meant to be funny.

  7. Ryan Machia

    I thought the movie capture the many aspects of the old inuit people. Whether it was fake or not, the information seemed pretty true. For one of the first documentaries I think it did itself justice. It captured why the inuit can find happiness in the life they live.

  8. Abigail Patch

    I wonder what made Robert Joseph Flaherty want to make this movie and why that family? I really like how close the family is and how they all work together. The part where they are making the igloo was my favorite!

  9. Nathan Tanner

    I think this was an amazing movie! It really makes you think about the things we take for granted today, when they were devoting their whole lives to survival back then, and still barely having enough to survive.

  10. Monica Corrow

    I think this movie was a fairly good documentary about the Arctic life, if staged or not this is what I think of when I think of living in the Arctic. I especially liked the seen when they were building the igloo. The music could have been different of not so loud but that's okay. I still liked the film.

  11. Eva Willis

    This movie/documentary was really amazing, in my opinion. Learning that some of it was staged or semi-planned was a bit of a bummer, but it was still an awesome movie. Seeing how people acted in this was very different from how i've grown up and how life currently is around here, it is brilliant (in my opinion).

  12. Christian Demars

    I thought it was neat to see what their lifestyle was like. Even though it was a silent film, I still felt some emotion. Pretty good documentary for that time period I would say.

  13. Nicole Morse

    I'm not a particular fan of this film. But I respect it, because it's the first documentary film. After reading some more about this film, I've come to know that the family was not really Nanook's family.

  14. Bridget Mayo

    Nanook Of The North is somewhat interesting such as how they had to catch actual footage. To me, knowing that Flaherty changed some of the aspects of the way the Inuits lived and who the actors played really degraded the point of the movie. Having the people do certain things and playing people they're not, makes things very un-realistic and gives out false information.

  15. Zac

    I thought it was cool to see how another culture lived/survived without the everyday resources we are equipped with in the present day. They use and take advantage of their lands and resources in order to survive in the terrain they live in. They rely upon their survival skills and basic knowledge and thats pretty impressive to me.


  16. Makaila McAdoo

    Wether this was staged or not, they still did all of the things that was filmed. He still hunted the seal. Also even if those woman where not his wives, that is not the point of the movie. The movie is about how they live, not about wives. What i saw of the movie was good. No matter if its completely authentic or not.

  17. Jeffrey

    I thought the video was good for my second silent film. I loved the part where nanook chopped out a chunk of ice from the ground to make a window for the igloo. I thought it was very clever of him to do that in order to let in the heat and sunlight. I wondered how so many people could fit into that canoe?

  18. Cierra

    Most of the movie seemed real. The only part of the movie that didn't seem real was the boat scene. Overall the movie was interesting because you got to see what people in the north were like.

  19. Reema

    Interesting movie, It's cool to see different life styles and what others do for a living. I didn't like the music though, it was all on the same level which made it seem very depressing and I don't think the movie was made to be taken in a depressing way, because the people are used to living the way they live and they don't take it the way we do.. Overall its not my favorite..

  20. john kay

    cool vid

  21. Svetlana Vigliaturo

    No matter what you call it - feature or documentary, it is true to life... Absolutely amazing, so humane and romantic, so full of optimism and joy, that barely any movie can compete with. A true masterpiece that they don't make any more!

  22. Samin

    just reading Bill Nichols Introduction to Documentary as I came across Nanook of the North, but from what I understand from the reading, shouldn't this film be actually known as a fiction or even to go as far to say it is a Moc-cumentary?

  23. mark gaboury

    This is an excellent film in every way for its day. And imagine a woman who loves you so much that she will chew your boots just to soften them up! Let me see a feminist do that!

    1. aman-amen

      ,in love she'd do as a command she wouldn't. also a man should be able to do the same

  24. bonk22

    Excellent! Thoroughly entertaining. I never knew Nanok was a real person.

  25. Russell Rabe

    this documentary is the best ever..
    father work hard for his family..

  26. ConspirHeresay

    You'd think that after Nanook realized that to the south their was an easier way to exist, he would have packed up his sticks and bones and ventured to greener pastures with booze, smokes and casinos. Bet his decedents did.

  27. Jason

    I had a course once called Visual Anthropology, and this was the first film we watched. Flaherty setup everything to be staged although it was not how those people really lived, and Nanook was not even married to that woman, and those were not their kids. It is what 1920 Americans wanted to see, and that is something 'exotic'. It is a big influence on the concept of 'cinema verite' in documentaries and ethnographies such as this.

    RIAB's suggestion of Nanook Revisited (1988) really does a very great job at analyzing all of Nanook of the North and its context and its reality and is a must view for anyone who watches this.

  28. Scott

    I recall watching this movie in middleschool.

  29. ReligionIsntAllBad

    Melinda congratulations for growing up in Canada and having our default cultural misconceptions. The origin of the term Eskimo are contested, and was thought not to originally be a reference to eating raw meat ... which ... by the way ... they DID eat raw meat at times. Eskimo also refers to a broader group than just the Canadian Inuit. Thanks for coming out :D

    Re: White Lies of the Inuit ... it is one thing to make a docu in the 1920s attempting to capture the spirit of Inuit before european influence, and quite another to write a book about misconceptions created by such documentaries in 2007. Staging events for the camera was the norm of documentaries of the time, especially given the bulk of such camera gear.

    Nanook Revisited (1988 i think) is a good documentary about this documentary :)

  30. Melinda

    Horribly innacurate! The boat scene was something Robert Flaherty ASKED the inuit to do. It is NOT something they do. This documentary demonizes inuit ppl. AS WELL, Eskimo, means "eaters of raw meat". If you want to know how this is proved racist, and a dominant ideology that was created from false evidence read "White Lies of the Inuit"


    1. solitude_freak

      kinda foolish of you to say that.... i lived where this film was shot ((inukjuak)), talked (and toked) with many elders who describe the old days just as this film portrays.

  31. elizagene

    Skill, craftsmanship and cooperation must be required to survive in such a barren climate, but it looks to me like a good sense of humor goes a long way as well. These characters are like superheros.

  32. mik

    These people put to shame the characters of today.

  33. squid

    Damn, dude took on polar bears with a harpoon!! It doesn't get much tougher than that. Hell, I remember seeing a stuffed polar bear as a kid and looking up @ the 9ft tall thing and thinking how little I would like to tangle up with one. Guy was slick with the spearfishing too. It's a shame that these skills and ways are being lost as time rolls on. Just think how much you could learn from these people. Great Doc!

  34. Joey

    This is a special and historical doc. Who needs the sound when your spellbound. And yes Carlos the Inuit still exist and many struggle to keep there traditions alive.

  35. carlos1234

    this helped me realize how i take for granted the wonderfull, colorfull, full of sound TV we have today and and internet...And do Eskimo still exist and if they do i bet they dont live in igloos anymore

  36. Wendy

    Wonderful! Thanks for posting!

  37. john

    Wow! I had my doubts about this, since there was no talking... but it was fascinating! A must see, especially because of its historical significance. I loved how they made a window in the igloo out of ice!

  38. ez2b12

    How many indians does it take to fill a boat? It was like watching clowns do the bit with the Volkswagon, where they just keep coming out. I couldn't handle the silent movie thing on this one. Im sure it coudn't be help at the time this was shot but sound helps, more than I had noticed before. I wonder how that naked baby could stand the cold, just used to it I guess. Cool to get a chance to see this film. I had heard about it before but never had a chance to see it. Thanks for the opportunity, who ever posted this.