Programmer’s Note: One of the most controversial films of all time, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST’s depictions of the more grotesque and dark tendencies of humanity serve a far greater purpose than your average genre fare. The film is simultaneously a criticism of American imperialism in the aftermath of the ubiquitously televised war in Vietnam and a NETWORK-level condemnation of the medium’s obsession with the lurid and exploitative in its sensationalist ratings race. CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST is additionally noteworthy for being the first found footage horror film. Be warned, while the socio-political commentary and cultural impact of the film is undeniable, the violence against both humans and animals in the film is difficult to watch and may be triggering.
During a rescue mission into the Amazon rainforest, a professor stumbles across lost film shot by a missing documentary crew. The raw footage lays out the Americans’ atrocious exploitation of the indigenous population that eventually leads to the crew’s grotesque demise at the hands of a tribe of understandably angry cannibals.
Ruggero Deodato’s transgressive masterpiece—and the world’s first found footage horror film—sparked controversy upon its initial release when the filmmaker was arrested for murder after suspicion that the deaths documented in the movie were real. Only after the actors appeared in court was the case dismissed.
Still controversial after all these years, mainly for its unrelenting depictions of violence (CW: sexual violence and violence against animals), CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST remains one of the most difficult and confrontational, but ultimately essential post-Vietnam statements on the destructive and sadistic nature of American imperialism and the media’s exploitation of native populations.
"Dear Ruggero, what a movie! The second part is a masterpiece of cinematographic realism, but everything seems so real that I think you will get in trouble with all the world." —Director Sergio Leone (in a letter to Ruggero Deodato)
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