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Burden of Dreams -- For nearly five years, Werner Herzog worked on the most ambitious and difficult films of his career, Fitzcarraldo, the story of one man's attempt to build an opera house deep in the Amazon jungle. Documentary filmmaker Les Blank captured the unfolding of this production, including a sequence requiring hundreds of native Indians to pull a full-size, 320-ton steamship over a small mountain.


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Michael Goodwin (narration)
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Release Date:
1 October 1982 (Netherlands) See more »
A documentary on the chaotic production of Werner Herzog's epic Fitzcarraldo (1982), showing how the film... See more » | Add synopsis »
4 wins & 1 nomination See more »
User Reviews:
Not as good as I was hoping See more (21 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Werner Herzog ... Himself

Klaus Kinski ... Fitzcarraldo / Himself

Claudia Cardinale ... Molly / Herself

Jason Robards ... Fitzcarraldo

Mick Jagger ... Wilbur
Alfredo De Rio Tambo ... Himself (as Alfredo de Rio Tambo)
Ángela Reina ... Herself (as Angela Reine)
Carmen Correa ... Herself
Elia De Rio Ene ... Himself (as Elia de Rio Ene)
David Pérez Espinosa ... Himself (as David Perez Espinosa)
Miguel Ángel Fuentes ... Himself (as Miguel Angel Fuentes)
Mariano Gagnon ... Himself (as Father Mariano Gagnon)
Paul Hittscher ... Himself
Huerequeque Enrique Bohorquez ... Himself (as Huerequeque Bohoroquez)
Evaristo Nunkuag Ikanan ... Himself

José Lewgoy ... Himself
Laplace Martins ... Himself
Thomas Mauch ... Himself
Nelson De Rio Cenepa ... Himself (as Nelson de Rio Cenepa)
Walter Saxer ... Himself
Jorge Vignati ... Himself
Candace Laughlin ... Narrator (voice)
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Beat Presser ... Himself (uncredited)

Directed by
Les Blank 
Writing credits
Michael Goodwin (narration)

Produced by
Les Blank .... producer
Kathy Kline .... coordinating producer
David R. Loxton .... executive producer
Cinematography by
Les Blank (photographed by)
Film Editing by
Maureen Gosling 
Sound Department
Mark Berger .... re-recording
Michael Goodwin .... assistant sound
Maureen Gosling .... sound recordist
Camera and Electrical Department
Patricia Buchanan .... title photographer
Michael Goodwin .... assistant camera
Pacho Lane .... camera assistant (as Bruce 'Pacho' Lane)
Editorial Department
Joe Orr .... negative cutter
Chris Simon .... assistant editor
Andrea Sohn .... assistant editor
Other crew
Richard Becker .... translator
Andy Freeberg .... photos/artwork
Michael Goodwin .... interviewer
Volker Hinz .... photos/artwork
Pacho Lane .... interpreter (as Bruce 'Pacho' Lane)
Pacho Lane .... interviewer (as Bruce 'Pacho' Lane)
John Lumsdaine .... researcher
Christian Piper .... photos/artwork
Inez Reider .... translator
Sarah Satterlee .... title typography
Chris Simon .... office manager
Chris Simon .... researcher
Andrea Sohn .... office manager
Juan Manuel Ugarte .... murals: Iquitos Airport
Francisca Wentworth .... translator
Walter Saxer .... grateful acknowledgment
Lucki Stipetic .... grateful acknowledgment
Crew believed to be complete

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

Also Known As:
95 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.33 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Filming Locations:

Did You Know?

Narrator:Herzog is stranded in the jungle with a 300 ton steam ship that won't move and time is running out. He needs money to move the ship but no one would invest unless the ship moves first.See more »
Movie Connections:
Featured in Portrait Werner Herzog (1986)See more »


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21 out of 30 people found the following review useful.
Not as good as I was hoping, 9 March 2001
Author: zetes from Saint Paul, MN

Such interest in Fitzcarraldo was sparked in my mind that I was compulsively forced to purchase the DVD version of it. It was fascinating, a near-masterpiece, I would say. And I desperately wished to see the documentary about its making, Burden of Dreams. Well, probably a year after I first saw Fitzcarraldo, I came home one night to find Burden of Dreams on the Sundance Channel (praise god for this station!). I had missed about 8 minutes, but, oh well, I sat down to watch the rest.

Unfortunately, it did not reveal much about Fitzcarraldo. I had read about the problems Herzog had during the filming, and this is basically what Burden's focus is. The documentary does not go deep enough, though. I would say about a quarter of it (its running length is just over 90 minutes) is made up of actual scenes from Fitzcarraldo with maybe a short paragraph to describe the setting and maybe some small bit of behind-the-scene narrative.

Another section of the film is made up of interviews with the cast and crew. This should have been the lifeblood of this documentary, but it was not. Herzog's own interviews were interesting, but it is more or less him complaining because things are not going his way (which he has a right to complain about, but it isn't all that interesting to watch). He has this very silly monologue where he complains about how the jungle symbolizes the death of the world, when really the only thing symbolizing death is his dying film. Very disappointing is the documentarians' inability to get interviews with the cast. I was seriously hoping for some of Klaus Kinski's patented insanity and also at least one interview with the great Claudia Cardinale. There was one tiny interview with Kinski where he complained about having cabin fever for being stuck in the cast camps for weeks at a time, completely justifiable, I would say, and there are no interviews with Cardinale (although she may have been interviewed before I started watching). It made me feel a little disappointed that no documentarians had been there to film Aguirre, the Wrath of God, where Kinski absolutely flipped out!

Never fear, though. There is one very good part of this film: it serves as an ethnographic document for the Indians of South America. Herzog rightly claims that their parts in Fitzcarraldo itself were not sufficiently ethnographic, since they were just doing what he was asking of them. But in the documentary, we see the Indians making masato, an alcoholic drink made of yucca and saliva, we see them playing games such as arrow catching, we even see an attack from a different tribe that believes that the Indians who are working on the film have come to attack them. All of this is extremely interesting. 7/10

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