NANOOK OF THE NORTH (1922), LOUISIANA STORY (1948)
Nanook of the North
Robert Flaherty's Nanook of the North is known as the grandfather of all documentary films for many. Flaherty and his crew traveled to the Canadian Arctic to film the Inuit Eskimo Nanook and his family in their natural habitat. We see Nanook battling the elements, hunting for Walrus hide, building an igloo and in one of the film's lighter moments we see Nanook and his family popping out of their canoe one by one. We also see Nanook at the trading post with a famous scene of the Eskimo trying to figure out how a phonograph works. Despite the historical significance of the film, there has been criticism that Flaherty staged some of Nanook's scenes for the camera. I suppose in that way, the film was also influential.
But no matter how you slice it, Nanook building his igloo is always going to be cool (No pun intended).
Flaherty's Louisiana Story is almost Nanook in reverse. It is a fictionalized story set in the swamps of Louisiana featuring a boy, his pet raccoon and the oil drillers drilling in the swamps near their home.. But it has more of the look of a documentary and also shows Flaherty's silent film roots by having long patches of the film without any use of dialogue. The film's main antagonist isn't the oil drillers, but an alligator who is trying to get his teeth around the boy's beloved raccoon! I'm not totally sure what to make of Louisiana Story, but I do think it is interesting to look at the life of the boy and his grandfather versus the oncoming oil rig that represents progress.