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In September, 1959, six Europeans leave Cook's Bay on the southern coast of Dutch New Guinea, now West Papua or Irian Jaya, to trek north to the far side of the island. The journey (450 miles, as a crow flies) across unmapped territory took seven months; three Muyu porters died. Near both coasts, the expedition met villagers who invited them to observe rituals and live with them. In the interior, all villagers kept them at bay, and they depended on air lifts from Hollandia for food and supplies. They climbed above 10,000 feet, built 14 bridges, and fought leeches and malaria. The narrator focuses on describing Stone Age savages, headhunters, and cannibals. Written by
Watching "Le ciel et la boue" (called "The Sky Above, The Mud Below" in English), I got the feeling that it may have been one of the last chances that the documentary makers had to do this; after all, how many indigenous cultures still live their traditional ways? At times, the filmmakers use some pre-conscious terms such as "savage" and "civilization", but we understand that they aren't actually trying to attack the people on whom they're focusing.
I will say that the parts about airplanes flying supplies in gave me the impression that the filmmakers wimped out sometimes. But overall, the documentary is a fascinating look at cultures which may not have survived much longer. I recommend it.
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