Tag Archives: Nanook of the North

News: Slapstick, Hippodrome, Neil Brand, Nanook and more

It’s a busy time! Here’s a roundup of the silent movie news I really want to share with you.

Bristol fashion

The Slapstick festival, our favourite reason to visit Bristol, is back in 2016, running from 20-24 January with a fantastic lineup of events topped by a special gala screening of Chaplin’s The Kid. But there’s so much more to the programme than that. I am looking forward to Kevin Brownlow’s favourite silent comedy westerns, Lucy Porter on the genius of Anita Loos, David Robinson’s lecture on the inside story of The Kid and a musical screening of Cecil B DeMille’s jazz-age drama Chicago (1927), as well as tributes to Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Ben Turpin and more. Read more and book here and don’t forget to support the Kickstarter campaign if you can.


Neil Brand – and friends
Neil Brand – and friends

Brand new

It would take a smarter woman than me to keep up with Neil Brand these days – he pops up everywhere from the BBC to the Royal Albert Hall to the good old BFI. The best way to keep tabs on his activities and make sure you don’t miss a show, is his website neilbrand.com, which has just been thoroughly revamped. There’a google calendar of his upcoming events (very useful) and links to buy his DVDs, albums and books. Plus, there is an INCREDIBLY USEFUL page, titled So you want to programme a silent film? which is a clear, and authoritative guide to how to put on a silent film screening – from rights to music to marketing. If you are contemplating putting on a show – read this first. There is also a link through to Brand’s Originals site, which has some fascinating material about film music and musicians in the silent era. I hear that these pages will be getting their own makeover shortly.

Continue reading News: Slapstick, Hippodrome, Neil Brand, Nanook and more

Man With a Movie Camera: the greatest documentary of all time?

Two years ago, Dziga Vertov’s landmark art film Man With a Movie Camera crashlanded into the top 10 of the Sight & Sound Greatest Films of All Time poll. Today, I can jubilantly announce that this year Movie Camera tops another Sight & Sound poll – the hunt for the Greatest Documentary of all time. There’s another silent in the top 10 too – the wondrous, beautiful, and controversial Nanook of the North (Robert Flaherty, 1922).

1. Man with a Movie Camera, dir. Dziga Vertov (USSR 1929)

2. Shoah, dir. Claude Lanzmann (France 1985)

3. Sans soleil, dir. Chris Marker (France 1982)

4. Night and Fog, dir. Alain Resnais (France 1955)

5. The Thin Blue Line, dir. Errol Morris (USA 1989)

6. Chronicle of a Summer, dir. Jean Rouch & Edgar Morin (France 1961)

7. Nanook of the North, dir. Robert Flaherty (USA 1922)

8. The Gleaners and I, dir. Agnès Varda (France 2000)

9. Dont Look Back, dir. D.A. Pennebaker (USA 1967)

10. Grey Gardens, dirs. Albert and David Maysles, Ellen Hovde and Muffie Meyer (USA 1975)

Both of these films deserve endless discussion and analysis, it’s true – as do the others in the list, from Shoah (Claude Lanzmann, 1985) to Don’t Look Back (DA Pennebaker, 1967), but I want to linger on Vertov’s film for now. I think it’s rather special – but I am intrigued by its success in this poll. For me Man With a Movie Camera is really an art film, not a documentary, because it foregrounds technique and display above truth-telling and information-imparting. Not that it doesn’t do that too, but in the world of documentary film-making, City Symphonies have every right to push form over content, and Man With a Movie Camera is the most invigorating of all City Symphonies. This is a movie about the sheer joy and madness of film-making – stopmotion, superimposition, freeze-frame, split-screens, rewinds, acute angles and all. It exalts in the possibilities of photography and motion. From the opening scene in which the cinema seats slam down one by one, onwards, we are sure that this will be a movie about the movies, and all the more enjoyable for that. It’s as addictive as popcorn, as edifying as high art.

Is it worthy of comment that Man With a Movie Camera is in the ascendancy at a time when there is little good news coming out of Ukraine? I’m not sure – for most viewers, I suspect this film is lumped in with the less-specific categories labelled “Soviet”, “Silent” and “Arthouse”. But it always does us good to remember that far-away parts of the world are synonymous with more than the bad news that hits the headlines. This poll result reminds us that Ukrainian cinema, as showcased at last year’s Pordenone Silent Film Festival, shines in our global film heritage. There are, you’ll note, no British films in the top 10.

Continue reading Man With a Movie Camera: the greatest documentary of all time?

Competition: win tickets to see Tanya Tagaq in concert with Nanook of the North at the Southbank Centre

Nanook of the North (1922)
Nanook of the North (1922)

One of the most enduring, and controversial, of silent films is to screen at the Southbank Centre in April, with a very special soundtrack. Robert Flaherty’s Nanook of the North presented what seemed to audiences in 1922 to be an authentic “Story Of Life and Love In the Actual Arctic” – and they flocked to cinemas to see it. Nowadays we know that several of the scenes were staged, and that Nanook’s igloo was a fake – but the film remains a favourite. A docudrama rather than a documentary, made before the boundaries before those two genres were made distinct, Nanook of the North is a trailblazing film and one that is loved almost as much for the idiosyncrasies of its production as for the events on screen.

What’s particularly special about this screening is the music will be provided by a woman from the Canadian Arctic – not so far from the territory shown on screen in Nanook. Tanya Tagaq is an award-winning throat singer, who will accompany the film solo. Throat singing is traditional to the Inuit region but is usually performed by women in duets – a sort of sing-off to see which vocalist can last longest. You might remember the throat singing score for Pudovkin’s Storm Over Asia that was performed by Yat-Kha at the BFI Southbank a few years back.

Inuit throat singer, Tanya Tagaq, presents to UK audiences for the first time her live accompaniment to Robert J Flaherty’s classic 1922 silent docu-drama – Nanook of the North. To celebrate this rare screening, we are offering you the chance to win two tickets to see the film and Tanya Tagaq’s mesmerising accompaniment at Southbank Centre on Friday 4 April. To be in with the chance of winning, all you need to do is email …

To win a pair of tickets to see Nanook of the North with Tanya Tagaq at the Southbank Centre, email the answer to this simple question to silentlondontickets@gmail.com with Nanook in the subject header by noon on Friday 28 March 2014.

  • Nanook was not really called Nanook. What was his real name?

Good luck!


Terms and Conditions
– To enter the competition entrants must email…
– The competition closes at 12.30pm on 28/03/14 and entries sent after that time will not be considered.
– The prize will be awarded to 1 winner and will consist of 2 tickets to see Tanya Tagaq in concert with Nanook of the NorthThe winner will be picked at random and notified shortly afterwards.
– The prize are as stated in the competition text, are not transferable to another individual and no cash or other alternatives will be offered.
– Prizes are subject to availability and the prize suppliers’ terms and conditions.