Join us for a special screening of Moana with Sound, a “living panorama” of everyday life in Samoa in 1926. Originally created as a silent film, the director’s daughter created a sound version of this historical gem in 1980 and then, in 2014, the film was fully restored.

Flaherty was expecting to make a Samoan version of his box office success Nanook of the North. To that end he was looking for action stories of sea monsters. He was offered giant stingrays (according to Monica Flaherty), but he rejected that and opted instead to create a “living panorama,” to film everyday life. At the film’s center is Moana, the son of a tribal chief, who journeys towards manhood as he spends a week being tattooed. The film captures the villagers as they fish, hunt, make clothes, feast and dance.

Following the screening a panel discussion will reflect on the film, the representation of Pasifika in film and on film making today.

TicketsBook ticket




Duration98 mins + 30 min panel discussion

Year1926 / 1980 / 2014

Seats are limited – reserve yours early!

The History of Moana with Sound:

1926: Moana was released as a silent film. Moana had been filmed by husband and wife team Robert and Frances Flaherty during 1923 and 1924 on Savai’i, and is the first feature-length film to be noted as having “documentary value.” While not a box-office success it drew critical raves.
1975: Flaherty’s daughter, Monica, returned to Safune to create a soundtrack for the film. Five years later, in 1980, Moana with Sound was released.
2014: Independent film archivist, Bruce Posner, completed a 2K digital restoration of the film with the sound digitally restored by Posner and Sami Van Ingen.


“In his review for the New York Sun in 1926, critic John Grierson translated the French word ‘documentaire’ to ‘documentary,’ effectively making Moana the first movie to receive that label. Writing for the New York Times, Mordaunt Hall congratulated Flaherty, who according to the reviewer deserved praise “for having kept [Moana] free from sham.” In hindsight, these two statements have turned out to be sweetly ironic, for Moana – while not a sham – would definitely face trouble passing for a documentary today.” — Laya Maheshwari, 2014

Reviewing the 2014 restoration Alan Scherstuhl wrote in the Village Voice, Moana, a film of incomparable calm and beauty, is not a documentary in the strict sense, but it remains a document of great historical truth: Here is how Flaherty and the Western world preferred to imagine that tribal cultures lived, out of time and childlike, finding joy and meaning in toil and ceremony, gathering clams bare-breasted or shinnying up the great curved trunk of a palm tree so tall that Flaherty’s camera can’t capture it all in one shot. How much is an accurate depiction of these lives? How much is profitable leering and infantilizing?”

Main Photo:

Director, Robert Flaherty beside a camera, talks to three of the leading cast members – Tu’ugaita (of the Pa’ia’aua family in Matavai village), Fa’agase (from Lefagaoali’I Village) and young Pe’a (from Faletagaloa Village). Location: Safune, Savai’i, Samoa. Stills Collection, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision. Courtesy of Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision.