August 03, 2011

BBC show on Amazon tribe faked?

BBC embroiled in fakery row after experts dismiss Amazon showA reality TV show following the experiences of two presenters encountering a tribe of Amazonian Indians for the first time has been dismissed by experts as “staged, false, fabricated and distorted.”

Aired by BBC Knowledge in South Africa and by the Travel Channel in the US the show, produced by Cicada Productions, has been scorned by experts who accuse the makers of mistranslating interviews, staging events and fabricating rituals.

Mark & Olly: Living with the Machigenga was debunked by two eminent experts on the tribe; Dr Glenn Shepard, an anthropologist and Ron Snell (who grew up in the village).

Shepard stated that the show had mistranslated interviews to include inaccurate references to sex life in the tribe and an alleged hostile attitude to outsiders.

For his part, Snell points out that he had never heard of the pig dance which was broadcast on the show and described a scene where the pair were forced to sleep outside the village with a psychoactive drink prior to embarking on a pilgrimage as “phony.”

BBC Worldwide said it is investigating the claims.
TV series on Amazon tribe was not faked, say producers

Show's makers reject academics' claim that Mark & Olly: Living with the Machigenga was 'staged, false, fabricated and distorted'

By Mark Sweney
Oliver Steeds, the adventurer and presenter who lived with the group for several months and spent time with two other tribes in previous productions in the "Living With..." series, said he would "never seek to misrepresent the Matsigenka or any other indigenous group."

"My purpose and my record working with indigenous peoples speaks to the facts," said Steeds.

"I worked with the Matsigenka and other indigenous people because I believe that fair and accurate reporting of their lives and informing an audience of their cultures and history contributes significantly to their survival and strengthens their cause for their self-determined rights to life."
And:FremantleMedia Enterprises and Travel Channel said that after a "thorough investigation" into the allegations they believe that the programme "represents fair reflections" of the tribe.

"[We] remain satisfied that the programme was made to exacting and professional standards and the events and descriptions appearing on screen represent fair reflections, both of the tribe and the experience of living with them," the companies said in a statement.

"The accusations referred to by Survival International [which published the allegations] are almost entirely opinion based or concern matters which are highly subjective and open to personal interpretation and as such are rejected."
Comment:  I'm usually critical of these kinds of shows. But from what I've, these charges seem a little weak. They're of the "I've never seen that" or "That couldn't have happened" variety. This may be fine for an American Indian culture like the Lakota, which has been studied to death. It isn't so fine for a little-known Amazon Indian tribe.

For more on Amazon Indians, see Amondawa Has No Word for "Time"? and Sadistic Indians in Cannibal Holocaust.


Anonymous said...

Mark and Olly, actually. Hence the two men in the promo pic.

Rob said...

Thanks. I changed what the original article said.

For more on the subject, see:

Controversy Stirs Over Television Series on a Peruvian Tribe

Mark Anstice and Olly Steeds, who star in the World’s Lost Tribes series, “want to live out their fantasy of going native,” he said. “They have this shtick that they impose on people.” In an article published in the May issue of Anthropology News, Shepard cites various parts of the shows in which he says the subtitles are unrelated to the Machiguenga speakers’ words.

“The sound bites had nothing to do with what was in the subtitles, often,” Shepard said in a telephone interview. As a result, the series “reproduces a completely outdated idea of Indigenous Peoples.”

But Lelis Rivera, who heads the Lima-based Center for the Development of Amazonian Indigenous People (Centro para el Desarrollo del Ind√≠gena Amaz√≥nico, Cedia) said the community members knew the program would be what he called a “gringada”--a “U.S.-style program for U.S. audiences.”

“They prepared their script first,” Rivera said. “It was clear from the beginning that it was not a documentary.”

Rob said...

Hmm. "Not a documentary" sounds like a euphemism for "The critics are right...we made stuff up. The tribe's beliefs and ceremonies weren't sensational enough so we fabricated new ones."