As Robert Flaherty was making his first documentary with synchronous sound (MAN OF ARAN, released 1934), he discovered that he had never learned to cut smoothly between shots. He had become the most renowned maker of documentary films in the world without having acquired the most rudimentary skills of film editing. Why not? Indeed, how was it possible? Within this essay I address those questions, suggesting that the answers can tell us much about the distinctive nature, scope and limits of Flaherty's achievement and therewith much about filmmaking itself.