Robert J. Flaherty and Frances H. Flaherty
USA, silent, 1926, 92 min
USA, English, 1970, 20 min
The Flahertys had a dream, the dream of the Southern seas, of progress stopped, of paradise. And Moana, the film they shot in Samoa, is that dream. For a year they busied themselves with reconstructing reality so that it appeared intact, so they could go back to when food was taro root and fishes were fished by hand. Moana, the main character in Moana, is a beautiful creature, just like all those and everything around him. There is such sensuality in the surfaces that the bronze of bodies is perceptible, the greens, the blues that are not there. The salty, warm breeze blows. These people live in the realm of freedom without having endured the realm of necessity and their life is full of grace. It is no wonder that they smile by default. They live in a world not yet divided: “work” is confused with play, or with art, so much so that it becomes a crude notion, leaving no option but to put quotation marks around it. Several coconuts will be had in unforgettable ways. A mulberry branch will be metamorphosised into a dress. And our main character will end up tattooed from the waist down, subjecting himself to a trial of pain that was invented, perhaps, in this world lacking in outright pain, so as not to forget that happiness exists.
In Mosori Monika we will see what is unseen and we will hear what is unheard in Moana. First paradise and then paradise lost. Sorry, sorry. We will travel to another “fortunate latitude”, the Orinoco delta. Here the natives no longer live as they please; a mission of Franciscan nuns has set up shop. The warao woman Carmelita and the Spanish nun Isabel speak in a voice-over. The nun hurls to the wind recriminations that sound like a curse, like a horror film: ‘They don’t work. The Indians don’t work! They don’t do anything! They’re always sleeping in the hammocks! Only when they feel like it, they go fishing’. A foundational horror, if you will, that is enlarged in the images: the warao people unnecessarily dressed in Western clothing or Carmelita, on a visit to the nuns, being sent off with two bits of bread and a banana. The dream has been shattered and left behind is a reality that is almost withered, vile. Chick Strand gives, at least, the last word to Carmelita and the last image to the resplendent river.