After Nanook of the North (1922) had become the first documentary film to achieve wide success, Paramount gave director Robert J. Flaherty the freedom to make his next film anywhere. Known as the father of documentary cinema, Flaherty travelled with his family to Samoa where he shot Moana (1926). 50 years later, the director’s daughter Monica Flaherty returned to Samoa, where she had made her first memories as a 3- to 4-year-old. Monica’s goal was to record the sounds of the environment to create a sound version of her father’s silent film.
Co-directed by Sami van Ingen and Mika Taanila, Monica in the South Seas tells the story behind the birth of this sound version Moana with Sound (1981/2014). At its heart, the film deals with the ambition to reach the past and its sounds, even though the past captured on film is tinted by fiction and western fantasies. The portrayal of the pursuit of lost sound also grows into a broader reflection on the sounds and silences of history, resonating in the film’s polyphonic audio-visual texture.