1926/81, 96 minutes, 16mm
“Oh, if we could only take back with us the singing. Not the songs, but the singing.” –Frances Flaherty, Samoan Diary, 1924
Filmed in Samoa soon after the release of the classic NANOOK OF THE NORTH (1922) MOANA remains Robert Flaherty’s least-seen feature-length film. Despite finding critical support, it struggled to find audiences in the U.S., perhaps partly because of the heavy-handed musical score which featured excerpts from the music of Mendelssohn, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, and Grieg, among other representatives of the European classical tradition. Flaherty, as well as his wife and children, were fascinated by the songs of the Samoan culture, and when his youngest daughter Monica took charge of managing her father’s legacy in the 1970s, one of her first tasks was to work on the creation of a new soundtrack for MOANA. Traveling to Samoa, she recorded a wealth of material in the film’s original locations and in collaboration with the surviving members of the film’s Samoan cast, as well as in consultation with anthropologists, linguists, and filmmakers, including Richard Leacock and Jean Renoir. This remarkable new version of the film premiered at the Cinématheque Française in 1981, before screening around the world over the following 17 years.
Having receded from view once again in the years since, this screening of the film, presented by filmmaker Sami van Ingen (a great-grandson of Robert Flaherty), in concert with the Flaherty Seminar, is long overdue!
Special thanks to Sami van Ingen, and to Mary Kerr (Flaherty Seminar).