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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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Documentary | Drama

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25 March 1994 (Finland)  »

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Tigrero  »

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1.66 : 1
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The man, not the story
29 January 2009 | by (Greece) – See all my reviews

Much like their fiction counterparts, documentaries rise and fall with their subject matter. If they are to be successful they must have a story worth telling. This one doesn't. In fact it wouldn't have been made to begin with if Sam Fuller wasn't such a cult icon for these two guys here, Jarmusch and Kaurismaki. In 1955 Sam Fuller was sent to the Matto Grosso jungle in Brazil by Zanuck of 20th Century Fox to gather material for an exotic adventure about an escaped convict woman, her husband and a bounty-hunter, the titular Tigrero.

Wayne and Gardner were supposed to star, the film fell apart, apparently no insurance company was willing to take the risk of Wayne and Gardner shooting on location; but not before Fuller managed to shoot footage of the Indian tribe on 16mm. The footage, along with the script Fuller had prepared, languished for nearly 40 years. Fuller returned to the Indian tribe he once filmed, this time with Jim Jarmusch and Mika Kaurismäki, to shoot a documentary on a film that was never made.

The major problem of Tigrero is that it is aimless and flaccid. It starts as a humorous travelogue of sorts then digresses in the traditions and customs of the Indian tribe which is only tangential at best and then finally arrives at what the box promised: anecdotal material provided by Fuller himself about the film. Fuller is such an interesting and lively character that he can almost sustain the film by himself, even when his stories are little more than small tidbits. On the other hand, his interviewer, Jarmusch, comes off as a self-conscious, humorless hipster, walking around the huts of the village in his cool Ramones tshirt and Rayban shades. Mika Kaurismäki's direction is average at best, mostly because he seems completely unprepared. There's no angle to the story to hook you with. Fuller's first travel through the Brazilian jungle, carrying with him a 16mm camera, film stock, a box of cigars and a Beretta, an adventure more interesting than the lurid, melodramatic subject of the movie he was supposed to be researching, isn't given its proper due. It's no wonder then that the most captivating scene in the movie, and the one that achieves any kind of emotional leverage, involves the indians watching the footage of their ancestors 40 years later.


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