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Nanook of the north

Identifier: Film Collection no. 232

Scope and Contents

Often considered the "father" of the naturalistic documentary, Nanook of the North was made in 1922 by Robert Flaherty. The museum acquired two prints and 25,000 feet of outtakes of the film from its producer, Revillon Fr̈res, at Flaherty's request; in 1967, the outtakes were given to the Museum of Modern Art. Nanook of the North is a portrait of an Eskimo family's struggle for survival. Flaherty's objective was to illustrate the manner in which the Eskimo lived before the influence of white civilization. He convinced a real family (Nanook, his wife Nyla, and their children) to participate in staged events, wearing types of clothing no longer worn and carrying out activities, such as kayaking and walrus hunting, as they used to be performed at Cape Dufferin on the northern coast of the Hudson Bay, Ontario. Flaherty commented, "One often has to distort a thing in order to catch its true spirit." Nanook died of hunger two years after the documentary was made.


  • 1922

Language of Materials



1 Film Reel (55 minutes) : silent, black and white ; 16 mm.

2 Videocassettes (U-Matic (55 minutes)) : silent, black and white ; 3/4 in.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

3/4 in., U-Matic, viewing copy


Original format: 16mm. print.



Robert Flaherty, photographer and director; Revillon Frères Trading Co., producer.

Nanook of the north, 1922
Iris Lee
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Museum Archives at the Gottesman Research Library Repository

American Museum of Natural History
200 Central Park West
New York NY 10024 USA
(212) 769-5420