The Lost and Found Voice of Moana: The Multifaceted Story of a Re-appearance and Restoration of Robert Flaherty’s Silent Era Documentary Classic and its 1982 “Authentic” Soundtrack

This talk introduces the several histories of Flaherty’s seminal 1926 feature film Moana—the first ever film to be called a documentary film. Despite its critical acclaim and firm place in film history, Moana disappeared from distribution early on and became nearly obsolete until the 1970s, when Flaherty’s youngest daughter Monica set out to create an “authentic” synchronous soundtrack for her parent’s film, together with cinema vérité filmmaker Ricky Leacock. Monica travelled to Samoa in 1975 to record actual sounds at the same locations where the silent film was shot and post-synchronized the dialogue, that was re-created together with members of the original cast and other locals enlisted to lip-synch for the new sound version.
After its release in 1981, Monica Flaherty’s Moana with Sound achieved a critical success, but alas, just like the original 1926 silent version, it soon disappeared from distribution, until in 2014 Bruce Posner together with Sami van Ingen restored Moana with Sound to its former glory.
The multifaceted 90-year history of Moana is riddled with questions of attempts for authenticity, of cultural ownerships and problematics of intentions—the same questions that still occupy the discussions around contemporary documentary film practices. * Screening of the restored and remastered film on digital copy

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