How does Nanook of the North OR London OR Divorce Iranian Style confirm or contradict your expectations of what a “documentary” should be?

2711 words (11 pages) Essay in Film Studies

23/09/19 Film Studies Reference this

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How does Nanook of the North OR London OR Divorce Iranian Style confirm or contradict your expectations of what a “documentary” should be? You should focus principally on ONE film but you may refer to other films insofar as they serve your argument.

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Documentary films are strictly non-fictional bodies of work, unscripted reports and factual works of art. As films became more story based and scripted, using various camera tricks and high-profile actors, documentaries went into new directions and took many forms since their early inception – some of which have been labelled as non-objective and driven by agendas.

Documentary films have a varied and diverse category of films underneath it’s umbrella, such as Nature or Science related themed documentaries (Steve Irwin / David Attenborough / Bear Grylls / Nanook of the North), Biographical films (about the life/family of an individual such as Stephan Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time”, A ‘Shock’ Travelogue (Mondo Cane) and more.

The documentary category incorporates formally organised and non-scripted films. The term is said to have been first used by English pioneer of the true to life film, John Grierson, who is considered one of the founding fathers of traditional documentary for his perspectives that documentary film should exhibit fact however, not to the prohibition of innovative, creative treatment of the film materials and true to life procedures.

With Robert J. Flaherty’s Nanook of the North in 1922, the documentary film grasped sentimentalism; Flaherty proceeded to film various intensely organised sentimental films, more often than not indicating how his subjects would have lived 100 years sooner and now how they lived right at that point. Documentary has turned into the leader for a film of social commitment and unmistakeable vision. The rise of documentaries was driven even more so by the internet sites such as; YouTube and Facebook where deride, semi, semi-, pseudo and true-blue documentaries, grasping new structures and handling crisp points, proliferate. People can make their own documentaries on their phones and these can become viral in days and research masses of people. (Ellis, Jack C. 2005) Website links allow amateur documentary makers to effortlessly share their work without it needing to be in the form of DVDs for example. The internet allows amateur documentary makers to reach viewers from all around the world, together with the masses yearning for good content with crisp points of view and elective dreams, which would give these documentaries a credibility boost and shape a bright and lively future for the creator.  

A brief, overarching definition is conceivable however not essentially significant. It will hide as much as it will uncover. Progressively vital is the manner by which each film we consider a documentary adds to an on-going exchange that draws on common qualities that go up against new and unmistakable frame, similar to a consistently evolving chameleon. We will, in any case, start with some common qualities of documentary film so as to have a general feeling of the domain inside which most talk happens.

It is absolutely vital to first understand that documentary film has never had an exact definition. It stays common today to return to some rendition of John Grierson’s meaning of documentary, first proposed during the 1930s, as the “imaginative treatment of reality.” ‘In his view, he recognises that documentaries are inventive undertakings. It additionally leaves uncertain the conspicuous strain between “inventive treatment” and “fact.” (Kristin Bluemel, 2009 – “Documentary Cinema and ‘Fact’)   

We may, accordingly, alter this meaning of documentary by saying, “Documentary films talk about genuine circumstances or occasions and respect well established certainties; they don’t present new, mysterious ones. They talk specifically about the recorded world as opposed to figuratively.” (Keith Beattie, 2004) Fictional accounts are on very basic level moral stories. They make one wander in their thoughts and go from on world to another. Documentary films, such as Nanook of the North, allude specifically to the recorded world, based on facts and not fiction. The pictures, and a significant number of the sounds, they present come directly from the “real world”. In spite of the fact that this announcement will get capability later, documentary pictures generally catch people and occasions that have a place with the world we share as opposed to exhibit characters and activities designed to recount a story that come back to our reality at a slant or metaphorically. One critical manner by which they do as such is by regarding well established realities and giving evident proof. For example, Nanook is not a cinema verité, and yet in a sense it is: The film follows the typical conventions of a documentary and at the same time it shows the creation of itself. What happens in the documentary is real, despite the things that occurred behind it. Nanook definitely has a hold on the other side of that line. The documentary is not technically advanced, this may be due to the fact that it was filmed using just one camera, no stage lights, it’s filmed outside in the cold and everyone seems to be on the same level as everyone. However, it has an authenticity that triumphs over any objections/misconceptions that some of the scenes were staged.

Fiction films likewise can center on real people, then again, actually these people are typically prepared performers assuming scripted out roles. People regularly go to the cinemas to watch fiction films to see their most loved stars, regardless of whether the film itself appears to be average. In fiction, real people accept roles and end up known as the characters that populate a fictional world. A progressively exact articulation may be, “Documentaries are about real people who don’t assume or perform roles.” Rather, they “play” or present themselves. They draw on related knowledge and propensities to act naturally notwithstanding a camera. They might be intensely mindful of the cameras’ essence, which, in meetings and different interactions, they address directly.

The introduction of self before a camera in documentary may be known as an execution, all things considered in fiction, however this term may confuse people. What occurs in a documentary varies from a phase or screen execution in the standard sense. Real people, or social on-screen characters, as Erving Goffman called attention to several decades’ prior in his book. The Introduction of Self Throughout everyday life (1959), in which he says people present themselves in regularly in a way which varies from a deliberately received job or fictional execution.

As it were, an individual does not present in the very same route to a partner out of the town, a specialist in a clinic, his or her kids at home, and a movie producer in a meeting. Nor do people keep on introducing indistinguishable route from an interaction creates; they alter their conduct as the circumstances advances. One may dress one way when they’re with their peers and a completely different way when they have a job interview, this could also apply to how they speak.  

Agreeableness prompts cordial introduction; however, the presentation of a snide comment may incite guardedness. In documentaries, we anticipate that social on-screen characters should introduce themselves in this sense, not play out the job of a character of the movie producer’s creating, regardless of whether the demonstration of recording impacts how they present themselves. In most fiction films the story is basically the producer’s regardless of whether dependent on real occasions. “This is a genuine story” can without much of stretch be the prologue to a fiction film that draws from verifiable occasions for it’s plot. The story a documentary tells originates from the recorded world yet it is still told from the movie producer’s point of view and in the producer’s voice. This involved degree, not a high contrast division.

Nanook of the North is the main full length documentary to keep running in theaters around the world. From that point forward there has been a constant flow of documentary films appeared in theaters. At the point when the film was discharged, it got rave reviews and nobody considered it a documentary. It just appeared to be in a class independent from anyone else. Despite everything it is. Flaherty had what was once called “a innocent eye” which attempted to find “the elemental truths that all men share” He was patrician, unusual and adamant and had the eye of a painter – the qualities of numerous great movie producers. (Derek Malcolm, 2013)

Nanook of the North (1922), the story is apparently that of Nanook, a bold Inuit pioneer and incredible seeker. Yet, Nanook is to a substantial degree Robert Flaherty’s development. His family unit matched European and American family structure more than Inuit more distant families. His chasing strategies have a place with a period about at least 30 years preceding the time that film was made. The story is of a past lifestyle that Nanook epitomises in what adds up to a job and character execution in excess of an introduction of self in regular day to day existence at the season of recording. The film could be marked either fiction or documentary. (Robert Flaherty, 2000)

It’s order as documentary for the most part depends on two things: how much the story Flaherty tells so cautiously coordinates the methods for the Inuit, regardless of whether these wars are resuscitated from the past, and in transit Allakariallak, the man who plays Nanook, epitomises a soul and reasonableness that appears as much in accordance with a particular method for Inuit life similarly as with a Western origination of it. The story can be comprehended as both a conceivable portrayal of Inuit life and of Flaherty’s particular vision of it. Were documentary a generation of reality, these issues would be far less intense. We would then basically have an imitation or duplicate of something that previously existed. In any case, documentary isn’t a propagation of reality; it is a portrayal of the world as we know it. Such films are not archived as much as expressive portrayals that might be founded on records. Documentary films represent a specific perspective of the world; one we may never have experienced regardless of whether the verifiable parts of this world are well-known to us. We judge propagation by its devotion to its ability to recreate obvious highlights accurately and to fill needs that require exact proliferation as in police mug shots, international ID photographs, or restorative X-beams. We judge a portrayal more by the idea of the joy it offers, the estimation of the understanding it gives, and the nature of the viewpoint it ingrains.

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In contrast, Divorce Iranian Style is an exceptionally widely praised documentary. It was announced “Best Documentary” at the San Francisco and the Amsterdam Worldwide Film Celebrations. These awards are much merited for a film that can demonstrate a huge range of human feelings from Maryam’s desperation to Ziba’s assurance. Divorce Iranian Style demonstrates an obscure foundation in a general public that most Americans are generally new to. In any case, the material is introduced in clear, straightforward arrangement makes the film truly available to consider and examine in any documentary film class. 

The topic is likewise introduced in an entirely open and justifiable arrangement. The narrator acquaints every individual with the gathering of people and portrays specific thoughts that are imperative to the documentary. For instance, she traces the tenets the tenets of separation and portrays the significance of the marriage blessing. Amid the genuine in introduction of every story, any portrayal is insignificant. In any case, at whatever point essential occasions are going to happen, the narrator advises the groups of spectators to keep any perplexity. Amid Ziba’s account, Ziba herself can do the greater part of the talking. The group of spectators can at gather the vast majority of the data from her. (Divorce Iranian Style ‘Full Documentary, YouTube)

Nonetheless, when they scene shifts from the courthouse to her home to examine the significance of the marriage blessing, the narrator educates the group of spectators on what is going to happen. The narrator additionally sets the pace for the different stories to unfurl on the grounds that she presents every individual and frameworks their specific dilemma. The majority of the tales occur in a similar couple of accounts and some conceivable perplexity. Divorce Iranian Style is truly available and straightforward in view of the basic and all around plot story and utilisation of the narrator. (Kim Longinotto & Ziba Mir Hosseini, 1998)

Documentary re-establishments are a prime case of this. Here the movie producer should innovatively reproduce occasions so as to film them by any means. All of Nanook of the North can be said to be one colossal re-authorization, yet it holds critical documentary characteristics. John Grierson said Nanook had “documentary esteem.” This is clearly how the term documentary film picked up.

At the end of this, it doesn’t appear to be unseemly to see that a specific inclination to disruption characteristically has a place with the very idea of the class. To begin with, documentary escapes all endeavors to envelop it in a brief, settled definition; in actuality, its consistent development toward advancement induces a continuous discourse that draws on common attributes that go up against new and particular frame, similar to a regularly evolving chameleon.

However, Nanook of the North, although entertaining and informational as most modern documentaries, makes me ponder and not completely sure of my decision on whether I should consider this film as an official first documentary or not. I believe official documentaries are supposed to portray something in a certain time period given that time, along with explanations of what’s happening or has happened and what not. In other words, I think it would have been more completely accurate if Robert J. Flaherty showed how Allakariallak lived for real, giving viewers the idea of an Inuit family’s life after European influence, instead of how his recent ancestors lived. In contrast to Divorce Iranian Style, we get a film that attempts to show the reality of how the legal system affects people’s lives. we discovered that although it does use observational aspects of documentary film mode, the way in which the film maker chooses to use the clips where the participants and film-maker are clearly conversing and developing a relationship shows us that intact, it is participatory mode. 

Kim Longinotto shows the audience her relationship with the participants purposefully to highlight the power of the judge. The Judge has allowed them to come into his court and film- the Judge holds absolute power. Using participatory mode, the audience get to witness more honestly the mood and atmosphere of the room through the film maker as a part of the participation.


  • Derek Malcolm’s, Robert Flaherty: Nanook of the North, February 13, 2013
  • Derek Malcolm’s Century of Film, Robert Flaherty: Nanook of the North, 2000
  • Ellis, Jack C. and Betsy A. McLane. A New History of Documentary Film. New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group, 2005.
  • Erving Goffman; The Introduction of Self Throughout Everyday Life, 1959.
  • Intermoderism: Literacy Culture in Mid-Twentieth-Century Britain; Part 1V Document 10 ‘The Creative Treatment of Actuality’: John Grierson, Documentary Cinema and ‘Fact’ in the 1930s.
  • Keith Beattie; Documentary Screens, Non Fiction Film and Television, 2004.
  • Kim Longinotto and Ziba Mir-Hosseini, Divorce Iranian Style, Women Make Movies, 1998.
  • Robert Flaherty: Nanook of the North, 2000


Divorce Iranian Style (Full Documentary)

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