Cannibal Holocaust

Cannibal Holocaust
Cannibal Holocaust movie.jpg
Italian film poster
Directed byRuggero Deodato
Produced by
  • Franco Di Nunzio
  • Franco Palaggi
Written byGianfranco Clerici
Music byRiz Ortolani
CinematographySergio D'Offizi
Edited byVincenzo Tomassi
F.D. Cinematografica
Distributed byUnited Artists Europa
Release date
  • 7 February 1980 (1980-02-07)
Running time
96 minutes
Box office$2 million (United States)[2][Note 1]

Cannibal Holocaust is a 1980 Italian cannibal horror film directed by Ruggero Deodato and written by Gianfranco Clerici. It stars Robert Kerman as Harold Monroe, an anthropologist from New York University who leads a rescue team into the Amazon rainforest to locate a crew of filmmakers. Played by Carl Gabriel Yorke, Francesca Ciardi, Perry Pirkanen, and Luca Barbareschi, the crew had gone missing while filming a documentary on local cannibal tribes. When the rescue team is only able to recover the crew's lost cans of film, an American television station wishes to broadcast the footage as a sensationalized television special. Upon viewing the reels, Monroe is appalled by the team's actions and objects to the station's intent to air the documentary.

Influenced by the documentaries of Mondo director Gualtiero Jacopetti,[1][3] Cannibal Holocaust was inspired by Italian media coverage of Red Brigade terrorism. The coverage included news reports that Deodato believed to be staged, an idea which became an integral aspect of the film's story.[4] Approximately half of the film consists of the documentary crew's lost footage, the presentation of which innovated the found footage genre that was later popularized in American cinema by The Blair Witch Project. Noted for its realism, Cannibal Holocaust was filmed primarily on location in the Amazon rainforest of Colombia with indigenous tribes interacting with American and Italian actors.[5]

Cannibal Holocaust achieved notoriety as its graphic violence aroused a great deal of controversy. After its premiere in Italy, it was ordered to be seized by a local magistrate, and Deodato was arrested on obscenity charges. He was later charged with multiple counts of murder due to rumors that claimed several actors were killed on camera. Although Deodato was cleared of these charges, the film was banned in Italy, Australia, and several other countries due to its graphic content, including sexual assault and genuine violence toward animals. Although some nations have since revoked the ban, it is still upheld in several countries. In retrospective analyses, the film's violence has been noted as commentary on ethics in journalism, exploitation of developing countries, and the nature of modern society versus uncivilized society, although these interpretations have also been met with criticism.[6][7][8]


In 1979, an American film crew disappears in an area of the Amazon rainforest known as the "Green Inferno", while filming a documentary about indigenous cannibal tribes. The team consists of Alan Yates, the director; Faye Daniels, his girlfriend and script girl; and two cameramen, Jack Anders and Mark Tomaso. Harold Monroe, an anthropologist at New York University, agrees to lead a rescue team in hopes of finding the missing filmmakers. In anticipation of his arrival, the military conducts a raid on the local Yacumo tribe and takes a young male hostage in order to negotiate with the natives. Upon arrival, Monroe is introduced to his guides, Chaco and his assistant, Miguel.

After several days of trekking through the jungle, the group encounters the Yacumo tribe. They arrange the release of their hostage in exchange for being taken to the Yacumo village. Once there, the group is initially greeted with hostility and learns that the filmmakers caused great unrest among the people. The next day, Monroe and his guides head deeper into the rainforest to locate two warring cannibal tribes, the Ya̧nomamö and the Shamatari. They encounter a group of Shamatari warriors and follow them to a riverbank, where they save a smaller group of Ya̧nomamö from death. The Ya̧nomamö invite Monroe and his team back to their village in gratitude, but they are still suspicious of the foreigners. To gain their trust, Monroe agrees to bathe naked in a river. A group of Ya̧nomamö women emerge from the riverbank to take him to a shrine, where he discovers the skeletal remains of the filmmakers. Angered, he confronts the Ya̧nomamö in the village, during which time he plays a tape recorder. The intrigued natives agree to trade it for the filmmakers' surviving reels of film.

Back in New York, executives of the Pan American Broadcasting System invite Monroe to host a broadcast of the documentary to be made from the recovered film, but Monroe insists on viewing the raw footage before making a decision. The executives first introduce him to Alan's work by showing an excerpt from his previous documentary, The Last Road to Hell, which depicts executions in war-torn countries. One of the executives tells Monroe that Alan staged such dramatic scenes to get more exciting footage. Monroe then begins to view the recovered footage, which first follows the group's trek through the jungle. After walking for days, their guide, Felipe, is bitten by a venomous snake. The group amputates Felipe's leg with a machete to save his life, but he later dies and is abandoned. The group locate the Yacumo in a clearing, where Jack shoots one in the leg so they can easily follow him to the village. Once they arrive, the crew forces the tribe into a hut and burns it down in order to stage a massacre for their film. Monroe criticizes the staged scenes and poor treatment of the natives, but his concerns are ignored.

Monroe finishes viewing the footage alone and expresses his disgust to the station executives regarding their decision to air the documentary. To convince them otherwise, he shows them the remaining, unedited footage that only he has seen. The final two reels begin with the film crew locating and capturing a Ya̧nomamö girl, whom the men take turns raping and filming, much to the protest of Faye. They later encounter the same girl impaled on a wooden pole by a riverbank, where they claim that the natives killed her for loss of virginity. Shortly afterwards, they are attacked by the Ya̧nomamö in revenge for the girl's rape and death. Jack is hit by a spear, and Alan shoots him to prevent his escape so that the team can film how the natives mutilate his corpse. As the three surviving team members try to escape, Faye is captured, and Alan insists that they attempt to rescue her. Mark continues to film as she is stripped naked, gang-raped, beaten, and beheaded. The Ya̧nomamö then pursue and kill the last two team members as the camera drops to the ground in front of Alan's bloody face. Disturbed by what they have seen, the executives order the footage to be destroyed. As Monroe leaves the station, he ponders to himself who the "real cannibals" are.

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