Man of Aran

Director: Robert J. Flaherty

Robert Flaherty’s seminal documentary, Man of Aran today remains one of the most important cinematic depictions of western Ireland. Initially arriving for an overnight stay, Flaherty eventually spent over two years among the native community of the Aran Islands, which are described as “wastes of rock…without trees…without soil”. The film focuses on one family that represents the larger population and chronicles their struggle to eke out an existence in environs that constantly threaten to overwhelm them. Flaherty’s bold mix of documentary and dramatic fiction has led to criticisms of the film’s veracity, but what cannot be doubted is the sheer beauty of the imagery. With its elemental drama played out against the backdrop of a vast and ever-changing sea, this remains a remarkable document of a bygone era.

Notes by Kevin Coyne.

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