How the Myth Was Made: A Study of Robert Flaherty's Man of Aran (1984)
59min · Documentary · 8 November 1984
American documentary film-maker George C. Stoney visits the Aran Islands to try and unravel some of the myths surrounding a film that had engrossed him as a youngster - Robert Flaherty's famous documentary "Man of Aran" released in 1934. With the help of Harry Watt, an equally famous British documentary film-maker, Stoney revisits the islands that Flaherty helped make famous, conversing with actual participants in the film including Maggie Dirrane, one of the three principal stars. Stoney and Watt re-evaluate some of the mystique surrounding the shooting of the film and consider how it was to affect the lives of the Islanders themselves. Stoney and Watt seem to concur that "Man of Aran" was not so much a documentary as a visual poem. This was Flaherty's personal and romantic vision of how life SHOULD be lived on the island, ignoring the harsher realities that might question the validity of such romanticism. One old man recalls the poverty and harshness of life at the time Flaherty made his film, questioning Flaherty's motives for ignoring what he could see with his own eyes. He contends that the film "made very little" of the poor and suggested that Flaherty failed to recognize that "even the poor have their pride". Stoney investigates the positives and negatives wrought by the film, how it's legacy could still be felt in the Aran Islands of the late 1970's. The Islanders themselves appear to be divided over Flaherty's portrayal and some express concern that increased tourism, for example, will somehow destroy or damage their cherished way of life. Others are diametrically opposed to this viewpoint, welcoming increased tourism as helping towards the creation of employment on the island. Still, whatever the myriad viewpoints, there is an over-riding sense of Flaherty's presence throughout this documentary, even in this more modern age, and Stoney himself is able to declare that just being here has it's own rewards, retracing the footsteps of a legend in documentary film-making. As he states himself - "The sheen and texture of myth is all about me".
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