Robert Flaherty

"The Jean-Jacques Rousseau of the cinema, and one of its greatest geniuses, who created the 'narrative documentary' - a method of filmmaking whose stories, actors, and settings were taken from life itself. His films have a deep human warmth, an understanding of what he called the true spirit of man, and reflect his passionate attention to detail and his interest in everyday behaviour and the common feelings of mankind." - Georges Sadoul (Dictionary of Film Makers, 1972)

Robert Flaherty

Director / Cinematographer / Screenwriter / Producer / Editor
(1884-1951) Born February 16, Iron Mountain, Michigan, USA
Top 250 Directors

Key Production Country: USA
Key Genres: Documentary, Culture & Society, Anthropology, Sociology, History, Romance
Key Collaborators: Frances H. Flaherty (Screenwriter)

"A great documentarian whose Nanook of the North (22) set standards for the nonfiction film. His genius could re-create reality using real people in their own settings (Man of Aran, 34; Louisiana Story, 48)." - William R. Meyer (The Film Buff's Catalog, 1978)
"Sometimes called 'the father of the motion-picture documentary,' this enterprising filmmaker was at least as much showman as documentarian. Nonetheless, he deserves credit for his pioneering; he was the first to bring movie cameras to some of the world's most inaccessible places, at considerable risk to his comfort and, sometimes, his health. Born to a prospector, Flaherty spent much of his youth in the American West in search of gold. His youthful travels nurtured a lifelong yearning for exploration and a profound curiosity about other peoples and civilizations." - Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia, 1995
"Flaherty has been accused , in his film explorations, of finding only what he was looking for: Innocent Eye as Cyclops. As he grew older, this may have ben truer, for Moana and Man of Aran can be seen as spin-offs from the Nanook story line. But in his finest films, Nanook and The Land, he simply saw the truth and brought it home. These films stand at opposite ends of Flaherty's physical spectrum. Nanook was his response to a subject with which his nature was in complete harmony; The Land was an atonal wall of compassionate horror. Standing alone among his works, they also stand tallest." - Richard Corliss (Greatest Film Directors: A Critical Anthology, 1978)
"Considered by many to be the father of the documentary film, Robert Flaherty expressed his view of the importance of primitive societies and the balance between man and nature in his silent era films." - Ronald Bergan (Film - Eyewitness Companions, 2006)
"A pioneer of film documentary in the 1920s, Robert Flaherty set out to document and depict the lives of the people participating in his filmmaking projects. His most famous film, Nanook of the North (1922), concerns itself with the lives of an Eskimo, or Inuit, family. Flaherty aimed for a cinéma vérité style and approach, and established himself through his early film work as a major presence and force behind this burgeoning genre." - Matt Hills (501 Movie Directors: A Comprehensive Guide to the Greatest Filmmakers, 2007)
"It is understandably common to regard Robert John Flaherty as the father of documentary; indeed, it was Flaherty's second film that prompted John Grierson to coin the very term. Yet, while the word is often used to denote an objective film record of an historical reality, Flaherty's work more frequently displayed the subjective vision of a poetic artist working, to some extent, in fiction… If it is impossible to trust fully in his observation of cultures previously unseen in the cinema, it is difficult not to be moved by his naively idealistic vision and consummate artistry." - Geoff Andrew (The Film Handbook, 1989)
TSPDT Guide
Highly Recommended
Nanook of the North (1922)
Worth a Look
Moana (1926), Man of Aran (1934) , Louisiana Story (1948)
Approach with Caution
Elephant Boy (1937) [co-directed by Zoltan Korda]
Acclaimed Films / IMDB Filmography
1,000 Greatest Films
Amazon Products
Films / Books
    Man of Aran
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