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Why did Robert Flaherty's Man of Aran resonate so strongly with the cultural milieu of 1930s Ireland? I argue that Flaherty's documentary, despite its mimetic intentions, has, in fact, the semiotic form of a foundation myth. A consequence of this, I suggest, was that Flaherty's film
would have been instrumental in activating nationalist narratives of self-determination and colonial oppression that were then current in the nascent Irish State. Additionally, a subsidiary (and related) goal of my discussion is to show, by way of Flaherty's film, that the documentary form
is no less structured by normative cultural codes than its fictional counterparts.
Studies in Documentary Film is the first refereed scholarly journal devoted to the history, theory, criticism and practice of documentary film. In recent years we have witnessed an increased visibility for documentary film through conferences, the success of general theatrical releases and the re-emergence of scholarship in documentary film studies.