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Robert Flaherty was a pioneering documentarian, but he’s not exactly the father of cinéma vérité. Poet, ethnographer, and even a bit of a fabulist, Flaherty shaped his work like fiction and sometimes collaborated with directors on theatrical features that included documentary detail. Since his 1951 death, he’s been enshrined as a patron of avant-garde filmmaking—which is why an annual festival of such films is known as the Flaherty Seminar. For the fourth year, the National Gallery of Art is presenting some movies shown at the latest seminar, a program titled “In Praise of Independents: ‘The Flaherty’ “ (at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 14). The five films include Peter Hutton’s Study of a River, a luminous black-and-white study of the Hudson that encompasses closeups and long shots, documentary and abstraction; Arthur Lipsett’s fast-paced Free Fall, which juxtaposes nature and urban imagery with gospel music and animal sounds; and Morgan Fisher’s Standard Gauge, a wry investigation of his own filmmaking career and the formal qualities of 35 mm film. This lineup will be followed by screenings of eight Flaherty films, including his most famous one, 1922 Inuit docudrama Nanook of the North (at 4 p.m. Sunday, May 15). Among the others are Man of Aran, a 1934 view of life in Ireland’s remote Aran Islands (pictured; at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, May 28); and 1948’s Louisiana Story (at 4 p.m. Sunday, June 5), which used Standard Oil money to investigate the effects of the petroleum industry on the bayou. The series opens Saturday, May 14, and runs through Sunday, June 5, in the National Gallery of Art’s East Building Auditorium, 4th Street and Constitution Ave. NW. Free. (202) 842-6799. (Mark Jenkins)