Man of Aran

Director: Robert Flaherty

U.K.| 1934. Black and white. 76 minutes.

While it stretches the definition of documentary, Robert Flaherty’s Man of Aran remains a triumph of poetic imagery and one of the greatest non-fiction films ever made. Critic Pauline Kael hailed it as ‘the greatest film tribute to man’s struggle against hostile nature’, referring to conditions faced by residents of the Aran Islands amidst the harsh seas of the Atlantic. Flaherty and his tiny crew spent over two years on the islands, chronicling the rugged lives of the residents in a landscape so rocky that seaweed is used as improvised soil. Flaherty cast the film with assorted locals and recreated anachronistic events (for example, the harpooning of a basking shark) from Aran’s past. This approach has generated controversy over its authenticity, but Man of Aran still retains its reputation as a timeless record of people miraculously surviving in a most extraordinary place.

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