Nanook of the North (1922), Robert J. Flaherty

An iconic milestone in documentary filmmaking, Robert J. Flaherty’s 1922 Nanook of the North – nearly a hundred years old now – presents viewers with an almost lost paradigm of the human existence in a place, like the surface of the moon, so alien and yet so familiar.

nanook-of-the-north-2Man’s ability to endure and adapt to the harshest of regions on the planet is a mixed blessing. It is, ultimately, human ingenuity that allows whole populations to create roots and stay put in places, no matter how inhospitable they may be. Through time, this adaptability – which, in evolutionary terms, has always been beneficial for human survival – has become a liability for certain populations. People who are born in regions with extreme weather conditions must make the most of it or migrate. And yet so few of them leave their homes… Continue reading

Triumph of the Will (1935), Leni Riefenstahl

Equally despised for its celebration of the Nazis and praised  for its technical artistry, Leni Riefenstahl’s 1935 Triumph of the Will, a unique propaganda film, sits at the top of a controversial pile, indirectly questioning the very nature of artistic freedom and bias in art.

triumph-of-the-will-2Any reasonably educated person is well aware of the brutality of the Nazis and the unspeakable acts of barbarism perpetrated by the regime. The explosive cocktail of nationalism, racism and self-victimisation, instigated by Adolf Hitler, led to the destruction of Germany and the loss of tens of millions of lives across Europe. It is unnecessary to warn anyone of the evils associated with the National Socialist Party. However, Leni Riefenstahl’s astonishing documentary-cum-propaganda Triumph of the Will [Triumph des Willens] cannot be blamed for the atrocities derived from the ideology. Continue reading