The resulting film is not a true ethnographic record. Flaherty's subjects improvised events from their daily lives or from customs of their culture's recent past. (Because he knew Eskimo society so well, Nanook is considered to be ethnographically correct.) Flaherty deliberately chose appealing, rather idealized, people -- even to the point of creating bogus families.and goes on to commend it, saying
Nanook's accessibility and timelessness make it worth considering as an introduction for children to either documentary or silent film.
Roger Ebert considers it a movie "great" and says the film
stands alone in its stark regard for the courage and ingenuity of its heroes. Nanook is one of the most vital and unforgettable human beings ever recorded on film.
FilmReference.com includes an extensive list of resources and begins its article by saying,
Through the everyday life of one family, Nanook of the North typifies Eskimo life in the Arctic; it uses a number of sequences that demonstrate Inuit ingenuity and adaptability in one of the world's harshest climates.and closes with this:
Nanook remains the most enduring of all Flaherty's films for its simplicity of purpose, structure, and design. It ennobles its subjects rather than exploits them. It relies on a few well-developed sequences. The images, sharp and uncluttered, are still memorable.