Cannibal Holocaust and the Understanding of Sensationalism
Cannibal Holocaust should be revered because it is one of those rare films that takes a hard look at the potential for real human cruelty. Unlike any other film of its kind, it uses a fictionalized event to take a deeper look at what the news or documentaries show us and not just the glossy surface. As a huge fan of horror films, I possess a certain amount of desensitization when it comes to gore on film. Be forewarned, if you have not seen Cannibal Holocaust, it does depict actual animal killings. These were, for me, the most disturbing thing about this movie which has been banned in countries the world over.
It was my pleasure to watch Cannibal Holocaust for the first time this evening for the sole purpose of writing this essay. The beginning of the film opened with New York and a young film crew setting off to shoot a “documentary” about the cannibalistic tribes in an uncharted portion of the Amazon forest known as The Green Inferno. We just see a small segment of the four person camera crew before they set off and then we are introduced to our main character, Harold, who is sent in after them to determine what has happened. We see his trek through the jungle, his interactions with the natives, and the eventual retrieving of the “found footage” from the previous crew whom we have discovered, fell prey to the cannibals. What is most important about the first part of this movie is to note how Harold’s interactions with these tribes, denotes respect for their customs and he tries to relate to them on their level of understanding and this is exactly how one should approach these sheltered tribes. As a viewer you get to see exactly what makes each of these tribes tick and you get the impression that things with the first crew just went terribly wrong.
After Harold returns to society and the footage has been given to whatever film or news group wants to air it, we start to see bits and pieces of what happened with the first expedition. The protagonist, Harold, has been asked to “host” this footage and he wants to see what his efforts in the jungle brought forth. What follows is most disturbing in its realism and especially when applied to how today’s media wars are fought. Without wasting a lot of space on graphic detail, it shows the four person camera crew staging horrific acts, terrorizing the tribes, and in the very first encounter anyone has had with the elusive “tree people” they rape and torture to death a young tribal woman and stage her death to make it appear as if a barbaric people has done these atrocities all for the sake of becoming famous for exposing these primitive cultures. The irony of this last act was not lost on me, it was in fact very barbaric people that committed these horrendous violations against an untouched people, but those barbarians were us. While watching this movie I couldn’t help but to wonder about documentaries I’ve seen and news broadcasts all over the world, always predicting and depicting doom and gloom. These same people are ready to proclaim war on or cry foul on any group of people that appears to think differently, act differently, or believe differently than themselves. How much of what we see in real life is staged for sensationalism? All of this was in the forefront of my mind while watching Cannibal Holocaust. This movie is very thought provoking and yes, cringe worthy in places (watch out for the turtle death) but the parting line says it all, “I wonder who the real cannibals are?” The camera very aptly pans over a street sign in New York which its boldest word proclaims “America.”
Thank you very much Erin for your entry. There will be more to come as the month of September rolls on. For more info regarding the essay contest and The Madness just click the link below...