By MICHAEL GINGOLD
For nearly 40 years, Ruggero Deodato’s CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST has provoked shock, outrage and debate among horror fans and cinemaphiles. Now a new documentary digs deep into this controversial film, and we’ve got an exclusive trailer and words from its creator.
Calum Waddell, who has created numerous docs and disc featurettes through his High Rising Productions, is putting together SEARCHING FOR CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, which examines the film’s complicated history and revisits its star and locations. Its central thesis stems from negative comments Waddell once posted on-line about the movie, which he has nonetheless been unable to shake off. “Basically, it is the story of how CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST has impacted upon the lives of a number of people, including myself,” Waddell tells RUE MORGUE. He notes that HOLOCAUST “has arguably the most fanatical following of any horror film I have come across—to the extent that I still have people trolling me on the Internet for criticizing it in 2003 on a message forum, and saying I have no right to even write about something I once said I was not fond of. My opinion has since changed, although I still have massive moral issues with the film and its various representations, but its impact on my life has been one of extensive cyberbullying, even after I’ve done so much writing and research on the movie and the entire Italian cannibal-film cycle.
“So I went to San Francisco and Amazonas this summer with [High Rising partner] Naomi Holwill to try and figure the movie out, and get my head around why it keeps me so intrigued. First, by getting the story of Carl Gabriel Yorke, its star, who takes us through how he began as an actor in San Francisco, revisits his old haunts, talks about his experience with the film and takes us through why he left acting and how CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST came back into his life. I know Carl has spoken about the film before, but never in this sort of depth—this is his life story and it’s fascinating and actually quite moving at times, especially as he revisits his own past in this beautiful city.
“From there, we go to Bogotá, Colombia and meet up with Phil Stoneman, my old university pal and the person I edited my first fanzine with. He speaks about how living in Colombia has changed him and his life over the past 15 years—and how he feels about the representations in CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. Then, of course, we end up in Amazonas, meet two of the original actors—one of whom also worked on the locations—retrace the steps of the crew and also meet one of the camera assistants from HOLOCAUST and CANNIBAL FEROX, all of whom talk to us about the impact the film has had on them.”
There’s much more to CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST than the people who made it happen, and Waddell explains how his documentary addresses its sociopolitical implications as well. “This is a story that brings in elements of an international smuggling trade, the earliest stages of tourism in the Amazon—during a civil war, no less—displacement of native people, who were then working on this strange Italian horror film, and current exploitation and even elements of present neo-colonialism in the Amazonas. It is a fascinating story, one that started out as one thing and eventually became something else. It turned into a project we could not predict or control, and one that begs a lot of questions of where we are now as a so-called ‘civilized’ people when it comes to the developing world.
“So it took on the message of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, oddly, which neither Naomi nor myself could have predicted. Whether we actually present a story that lets the makers of that famous film off the hook—and gives them a ‘get out of a jail free’ card—is down to the viewer, but I feel I understand the movie a lot more and comprehend the reasons certain decisions were made. I’m sure I’m still going to be roasted by the usual trolls, however. My only regret is that no one did this documentary years ago, as most of the original participants are no longer with us, sadly.”
Keep your eyes here for further updates on SEARCHING FOR CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST!