April 29, 2011

Sadistic Indians in Cannibal Holocaust

Movies We Love:  Cannibal Holocaust

By J.L. SosaSynopsis

A small band of American filmmakers departs for the Amazon to document the lives of warring cannibal tribes. Two months after they’ve vanished into the so-called Green Inferno, a rescue team led by anthropologist Harold Monroe (Robert Kerman) discovers the documentary crew died at the hands of the Yanomamo tribe. Monroe retrieves the crew’s footage and brings it back to New York. The found footage depicts an orgy of shocking sadism--perpetrated by both the cannibals and the “civilized” Americans.
Some comments on this movie:Greg

It’s too bad that they used the “Yanomamo” name because there wasn’t anything authentic about the portrayal of them. They really could have incorporated some aspects of Yanomamo culture and given the film another dimension. But basically it’s just a sexed up horror flick. That genre doesn’t accurately represent hotels, funeral homes etc. so this is forgivable.


I always thought that was really unfortunate too. I can’t imagine why they would do that? To lend credence to the film as “reality?” It would have been far better just to create a fake tribal name. I doubt anyone would have noticed, known, or cared. Great comment.

Jorge Sosa

I agree, Greg. I guess I’m so used to insensitive depictions of indigenous people in movies of this ilk that I didn’t really focus on that. Nobody is really portrayed in a positive light, for that matter. Caucasians, Latin Americans, TV execs are all basically bastards in this film.
Comment:  I haven't seen this movie, but Sosa's defense of it is problematical. A small group of anthropologists and filmmakers obviously doesn't represent the entire Caucasian race. Moviegoers have seen millions of other white characters, so they know these characters aren't typical.

Moreover, these characters are far from their "natural habitat." If they're acting horribly, they (and moviegoers) can blame it on the environment. "Jungle fever" is a commonplace excuse for whites who have gone bad.

In contrast, moviegoers have seen only a few other Native characters, and those characters probably acted like savages too. So moviegoers have no reason to believe these sadistic cannibals are anything other than the norm. The movie presents no "good Indian" to balance out its bad Indians.

Moreover, these Indians are acting horribly in their natural environment. They haven't been driven to evil, they are evil. It's not evenhanded to say Indians are naturally depraved and whites who live like them become depraved. The underlying message is still a racist one: that Indians are (naturally) savage and uncivilized.

For more on the subject, see Review of Fierce People and The Yanomami Scandal.

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