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Tigrero: A Film That Was Never Made (1994)

In 1993, Sam Fuller takes Jim Jarmusch on a trip into Brazil's Mato Grosso, up the River Araguaia to the village of Santa Isabel Do Morro, where 40 years before, Zanuck had sent Fuller to ... See full summary »

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In 1993, Sam Fuller takes Jim Jarmusch on a trip into Brazil's Mato Grosso, up the River Araguaia to the village of Santa Isabel Do Morro, where 40 years before, Zanuck had sent Fuller to scout a location and write a script for a movie based on a tigrero, a jaguar hunter. Sam hopes to find people who remember him, and he takes film he shot in 1954. He's Rip Van Winkle, and, indeed, a great deal changed in the village. There are televisions, watches, and brick houses. But, the same Karajá culture awaits as well. He gathers the villagers to show his old film footage, and people recognize friends and relatives, thanking Fuller for momentarily bringing them back to life. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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river | culture | brazil | journey | 1990s | See All (22) »

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Jarmusch & Fuller hit the road with Kaurismaki capturing it all.

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25 March 1994 (Finland)  »

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Tigrero  »

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1.66 : 1
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Featured in Mika Kaurismäki, elokuvaohjaaja (2015) See more »

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Mika Kaurismäki's documentary is part look back to golden-age Hollywood, part Amazonian ethnographic study
14 November 2016 | by See all my reviews

In the early 1950s, 20th Century Fox invited Samuel Fuller to make a picture in Brazil about a jaguar hunter (John Wayne was tipped for the role) falling in love with a woman (Ava Gardner) he helps to rescue as she flees through the jungle with her cowardly husband. Fuller headed for Brazil to make a preliminary study and settled in a village of the indigenous Karaja tribe. He scouted locations, shot some footage of local nature and customs, and discovered some elements that he might work into the screenplay. In the end, however, the whole project came to naught when insurance companies refused to provide coverage for a shoot in what was then a remote and potentially dangerous part of the world.

In Mika Kaurismäki's 1992 documentary, TIGRERO: A Film that was Never Made, Sam Fuller returns to the same village he based himself in four decades before. American indie filmmaker Jim Jarmusch tags along as the interlocutor to which Fuller recounts the whole Hollywood story and comments on how rural Brazil has changed since his first visit. Jarmusch is also interested in the culture of the Karaja, taking photographs of the village (some of which are included as extras in the DVD release) and narrating in voice-over some of their traditions and practices. The downside of this is that the duo talk about the Karaja according to the noble savage stereotype, depicting them as an idyllic people without a care in the world, and the film never confronts the challenges they might have faced now as modernity arrives, or forty years ago when life was no bed of roses either.

The film has an inauspicious beginning, where Jarmusch asks Fuller in Rio de Janeiro why he's there, and it's obvious that this whole (very stilted) dialogue is scripted. Once they subsequently reach the Karaja village, their chats seem more real. The first thing they do in the village is project the footage that Fuller he had shot forty years before to the locals. The Karaja are amazed to see their long-dead relatives and friends. As one Karaja explains the visceral impact that this film footage had on him, Fuller tells him "That's called emotion," the same cinematic creed he professed in his cameo role in Godard's Pierrot Le Fou.

Fuller is a funny character. He was already around 80, a wizened old man that seems only about half the height of Jarmusch, but he's full of energy and enthusiasm for this adventure. He appears almost invariably with a cigar in his mouth and a baseball cap and talks in this really old-timey New York Jewish accent. I honestly found him hard to understand at points, it's like watching someone speaking Elizabethan English step out into the world of 1992.

TIGRERO doesn't seem a major achievement in documentary filmmaking, and after one viewing I don't feel in a hurry to ever see it again. Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable 75 minutes and I appreciated learning something about this part of the world.


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