We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.


Best known for Nanook of the North, Robert Flaherty died in 1951—and was quickly reborn as a seminar. Since 1955, “The Flaherty” has been a weeklong showcase for independent and documentary film, both brand new and recently rediscovered. For the fifth year, the National Gallery of Art is presenting highlights of the latest Flaherty, including a five-minute assemblage of moments from its namesake’s home movies. The program’s highlight is Cameroonian director Jean-Marie Teno’s The Colonial Misunderstanding, a brilliantly structured study of German missionaries and colonizers in southern Africa. Opening with the seemingly casual connection between the German city of Wuppertal and its South African namesake, the film moves briskly from mere condescension to much worse developments: In barely more than a century, the efforts of well-meaning (if dotty) Lutheran evangelists to save African souls before the imminent end of the world leads to Auschwitz and apartheid. The title, by the way, refers to the Europeans’ belief that they could somehow own land that Africans had held in common for millennia. The other feature is William Greaves’ (pictured) Symbiopsychotaxiplasm (Take One), a mock documentary about filmmaking made in 1968. Also included are two shorts, Grandfather Cheno and Other Stories, which recounts tales from its Mexican director’s ancestors’ estate; and Cesare Lombroso—On the Scent of Carnation, which was shot in a Turin museum dedicated to a criminologist who linked wrongdoing to a defective sense of smell. The series begins at 2:30 p.m., Saturday, May 20, at the National Gallery of Art’s East Building auditorium, 4th Street and Constitution Avenue NW. Free. (202) 737-4215. (Mark Jenkins)