Nanook of the North

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Nanook of the North is an interesting film that documents the lifestyle of an Inuit family in Quebec, Canada. Robert J. Flaherty, the writer, producer and director of the film makes sure to film every aspect of the family’s daily struggles and duties. With nearly everything but cold weather in limited supply, it becomes very obvious that every aspect in their lives serves a specific role aimed towards survival; they have no space extraneous luxuries. The community as a whole seems to be very amicable, with everybody willingly helping each other out. The fur trader treats Nanook’s children to some biscuits and lard, and then even gives one of them some castor oil after they overdo it on their snacks. Nanook is even shown helping out a fellow Inuit, letting him hitch a ride on his kayak after some fishing. Within the family, familial bonds seem to be extremely strong. Even though everyone exercises their own specific tasks, they also help participate in more daunting tasks such as pulling in the seal from the ice. Life as a whole is run by the pervasive understanding that survival only comes with the idea that it has to be “one for all and all for one.”

Flaherty makes it appear the family has a general nuclear structure, with Nanook, the father, as the head and Nyla, the wives, as the caretaker. As one watches the movie they notice there is what seems to be a second wife, Cunayou, although she is never acknowledged or given any kind of title. She is just simply ignored as much as possible by Flaherty. Nanook serves as the eyes and ears of the family, and everyone else as the body. The very beginning where Nanook is rowing towards the shore in his kayak sends the viewer a very important message metaphorically. Like a present day minivan, the entire family rides all together in a large kayak. Nanook, as the head of the family is entrusted with deciding every step of the journey. Everyone else is literally shoved into the kayak blinded to the world...
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