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Shadow of Nanook - James Compton, Peadar King, Pegi Vail, Melvin Estrella

Shadow of Nanook

Filmmaker: Jim Compton
Producers: Peadar King (KMF Productions), Pegi Vail, Melvin Estrella (Zebra Films)
Status: In Production

In the spirit of the Inuit tradition, Shadow of Nanook takes you on a hunt for filmmaker icon Robert Flaherty a century after his epic film, Nanook of the North was released in 1922. A cinematic milestone that continues to divide and enthrall global audiences. An exercise in exoticization. A decades-old debate about ethno-fiction and the methods of a man called the father of the documentary. Both the director and his film became monuments.

Shadow of Nanook explores the darker journey of the filmmaker and the film’s legacy on the descendants he left behind on his road to fame through the eyes of his unacknowledged Inuk-Irish granddaughter Martha Flaherty, daughter of the biological son Josephie he left behind. The documentary revisits the frozen high arctic where Martha’s family and other Inuit families were relocated in 1953 by the Canadian government to the barren, uninhabitable lands at Resolute Bay and Grise Fjord. Inuit pawns in a global land grab and power struggle during the geopolitics of the post-WWII Cold War, the extreme hardships they endured were a far cry from the romanticized family’s ‘survival against nature’ featured in Nanook.

On the 100th anniversary of Nanook of the North’s release, the film follows the nightmarish memories of Martha and her haunted recollections of the long exile that she believes must be told.

photo: Timkal, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons