Moana with Sound

It has taken 90 years for Moana to retain the form in which it will be screened at DocPoint. Robert and Frances Flaherty filmed the material while they were living with their children on the island Savai’i in Western Samoa in the years 1923–25. They wished to repeat the commercial success of Nanook of the North (1922) and stage a wild survival struggle: man against nature. It didn’t work out. Savai’i was a paradise, and even missionaries had beaten the Flahertys to the post.

Partly heavily dramatized and scripted, the first docufiction in film history premiered in 1926, but without sound. To fill the gap, Flahertys’ daughter Monica travelled back to her childhood home and recorded authentic soundscapes, dialogue and locals singing. Monica Flaherty’s Moana with Sound premiered in 1980, and in 2014 its soundtrack was fully restored by a Finnish craftsman: in charge of the audio restoration was Robert J. Flaherty’s great-grandson Sami van Ingen.

Moana with Sound tells the story of its titular protagonist by displaying the islanders’ life: fishing, cooking, hunting and dancing. During the 18 months of filming, Moana grows from a boy to a man, courts a girl named Fa’angese and finally covers his upper body in traditional tattoo art. Finishing the tattoo takes three weeks, and the entire village participates in the process. By dance they try to alleviate Moana’s pain brought on by bone needles puncturing his skin.

The staged and acted out scenes may not be anthropologically accurate, but as a cultural and documentary artefact the hypnotic Moana with Sound has gained immeasurable value.

Text: Johanna Siik / Translation: Tapio Reinekoski

Filmmaker and curator Sami van Ingen will be present at the screening.

Language: Samoan
Subtitles: English



  • Director: Robert J. Flaherty, Monica Flaherty, Frances Hubbard Flaherty
  • Country: USA, Germany, Finland
  • Length: 98 min
  • Age limit: S
  • Format: DCP
  • Cinematography: Robert Flaherty, David Flaherty
  • Editing: Robert J. Flaherty
  • Audio: Sound editing: Monica Flaherty, Sami van Ingen (2014) / Sound mixer: Lee Dichter (1980, 2014)
  • Production: Robert J. Flaherty (1926), Monica Flaherty (1980), Bruce Posner (2014)


  • Maxim 2: Wednesday 28.1. at 15:45