Nanook of the North
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Nanook of the North, the world’s first feature-length documentary film, is turning 100 in June 2022. Come join us for a screening of Nanook and a Q&A with Dr. Kirk French – an anthropologist and filmmaker currently working on a project revisiting this iconic film.
In August of 1920, an aspiring American filmmaker traveled to Inukjuak (then called Port Harrison) to begin documenting the daily life and struggles of an Inuk man named Allakariallak and his family. Almost two years later, on June 11, 1922, Robert Flaherty premiered his completed film – Nanook of the North: A Story of Life and Love in the Actual Arctic at the Capitol Theatre in New York City. From hunting walrus to constructing an igloo, the project is an early example of ethnographic film (albeit often staged). Nanook was the first significant non-fiction film ever released. Its immediate success added a new category to the domain of motion pictures – the documentary. In 1989, Nanook of the North was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Archives by the Library of Congress.
Kirk French, Teaching Professor of Anthropology at Penn State, began collaborating with the Inuit of Inukjuak in November of 2019 with the goal of revisiting the film on its 100th anniversary. The end product will be a documentary that centers on the voices and perspectives of the Indigenous people of the area. Through a combination of archival footage from 1920-21, interviews with local inhabitants and climate change scientists, French is collaborating with the community to document the drastic environmental and cultural changes that have taken place in the region over the last 100 years.
Due to the pandemic, French’s initial trips were delayed until July 2021. The next phase of the project is to assist with organizing the Nanook Centennial Celebration Event that will take place in the village of Inukjuak on June 11, 2022 – exactly 100 years from the premiere of Nanook in New York City.