Moana (1926) - Another ethnographic documentary from Robert Flaherty, this time focusing on Polynesian islanders, specifically the island of Savai'i in the Samoans. Most of the film depicts the gathering and hunting of foodstuffs, be it trapping a wild boar, fishing, catching a large sea tortoise, pulling up taro root, and in one famous scene, watching a young boy climb a perilously tall tree to gather coconuts. Everything leads up to a rite of passage ceremony involving dancing and tattooing.
Flaherty and his wife lived among the islanders for two years gathering footage. As in other films by the director, Flaherty staged some scenes, although ironically it was during a review of this film that the word "documentary" was first used to refer to movies. The version I watched was the beautiful 2014 restoration supervised by Flaherty's daughter Monica. It's known as Moana with Sound, as Monica went back to the islands and recorded ambient nature sounds as well as the chit-chat of natives in their own, non-subtitled, tongue, as well as some of their singing. This new soundtrack was placed over the silent footage from '26. After watching it, I would think the original film would be a bit less enjoyable without the sound. This movie was a hit on the exploitation circuit, where they played up the topless native girls. 7/10