Search - Keep the River on Your Right - A Modern Cannibal Tale on DVD

Keep the River on Your Right - A Modern Cannibal Tale
Keep the River on Your Right - A Modern Cannibal Tale
Actors: Tobias Schneebaum, Norman Mailer, Michael Nelson Rockefeller
Directors: David Shapiro, Laurie Gwen Shapiro
Genres: Action & Adventure, Documentary
R     2002     1hr 33min

"I am a cannibal... No matter into what far corner of my mind I push those words, they flash along the surface of my brain like news along the track that runs around the building at Times Square."--Tobias Schneebaum, Keep ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Tobias Schneebaum, Norman Mailer, Michael Nelson Rockefeller
Directors: David Shapiro, Laurie Gwen Shapiro
Creators: Jonathan Kovel, Liz Dory, David Shapiro, Tom Donahue, Tula Goenka, Chris Vroom, David S. Shapiro, Laurie Shapiro, Lorna Thomas, Mark Stolaroff, Peter Broderick
Genres: Action & Adventure, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Action & Adventure, Biography, Gay & Lesbian, Docurama
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen
DVD Release Date: 10/29/2002
Theatrical Release Date: 07/23/2002
Release Year: 2002
Run Time: 1hr 33min
Screens: Color,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

I wanted more about the people, less about Mr. Scheenbaum
Linda Linguvic | New York City | 01/17/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Originally released as "Once I was a Cannibal", this is a documentary about Tobias Scheenbaum, a 78 year old gay man, who traveled to New Guinea and Peru in the fifties and has some weird and wild tales to tell. Mr. Scheenbaum lives in Manhattan, gives lectures about his travels at museums and tourist ships and has written several books about his experiences. Now, filmmakers David and Laurie Shapiro have created this film which has won several awards among independent filmmakers. They travel back to New Guinea and Peru with him and the audience sees that many of the people of these regions remember Mr. Scheenbaum with affection. One of the New Guinea men used to be his lover. Then, they travel back to Peru, where Mr. Scheenbaum recalls going on a hunt with the tribesmen that resulted in murder and cannibalism. And, yes, he did sample a bit of human flesh. Mr. Scheenbaum is articulate and witty and a good storyteller. He's speaks openly about his homosexuality and there is a lot of introspection about his experience of cannibalism. He's written several books on the subject and we see film clips from excerpts from talk shows he's been on through the years. While I found the movie interesting, I had a big problem with it. It's all about Mr. Scheenbaum. It's not about the people of New Guinea or Peru. I guess I was hoping for an anthropological film. I wanted to know more about the tribe in New Guinea than the fact that Mr. Scheenbaum had male lovers. I wanted to know what the meaning of cannibalism had in the rituals of the people of Peru. I wanted to know about both these tribes' religious customs, marriage rituals, burial practices, etc. In short, I wanted to take my own trip into the rainforest and learn about the way of these people.Alas, this was not to happen. This was a film about Tobias Scheenbaum and his own filters through which he viewed his experiences. It's all about him, not the people he came in contact with. And that, to me was the weakness of the film. I just wish that some filmmakers would want to do a film about the fast-disappearing non-literate cultures of the world without making it a celebration to the enlightening experiences of an American. There's stuff out there about the real people in New Guinea and Peru that is indeed worthwhile to film. This is a not a bad film for what it is. There's nice film footage of New Guinea and the rainforest. The documentary techniques are professional. And the viewer comes away with some insights into the persona of Tobias Scheenbaum. But I cannot hide my disappointment in wanting something more."
Intriguing Story of One Man's Love of Primitive Cultures.
mirasreviews | McLean, VA USA | 07/21/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"In 1955, Manhattan artist Tobias Schneebaum traveled to Peru on a Fulbright scholarship. He visited a remote Dominican mission, where he allowed curiosity about the local tribespeople to lure him into the jungle. He spent seven months in the jungle with the Amarekaire people (now called Harakambut), who were cannibals, and was presumed dead. But he emerged from the jungle no longer interested in an artist's career, deciding to pursue anthropology instead. In 1969, he wrote a book, "Keep the River on Your Right", about his experiences in the Amazon jungle. Schneebaum went on to live among the headhunting Asmat of New Guinea, as well. The extraordinary thing is that these cultures accepted him. This film tells the story of Tobias Schneebaum's unusual adventures in his own words and takes him back to Peru, at the age of 78, to find the tribespeople whom he had not seen in 45 years.

It's difficult to know how to rate this film, because it is a poorly crafted film about an interesting subject. The film's nonsensical organization obstructs most of the narrative. Its camera work leaves something to be desired. "Keep the River on Your Right" starts out in the present, then flashes back to some point in the recent past when Schneebaum visited the Asmat people in New Guinea, with whom he had lived in the 1970s. Then we learn about his life as an artist in New York. Then about his childhood. At the film's halfway point, we still have no idea where his infamous Peruvian adventure, from which the film takes its name, fits in or how Schneebaum came to be such a dogged adventurer. The second half is better. Schneebaum returns to Peru at the filmmakers' urging to recount his experience of 45 years before and to search for any Amarekaire who might remember him. Returning to scenes of past trauma, film crew in tow, has somehow become fashionable among documentary filmmakers. Tobias Schneebaum is a mild-mannered man who is afraid of dead mice but fearless among cannibals and headhunters who were strangers to him. His story is interesting, even if "Keep the River on Your Right" makes it difficult to follow.

The DVD: Bonus features include deleted scenes, a photo gallery, sketches by Tobias Schneebaum, a "Jungle Journey" book excerpt, a Tobias Schneebaum biography, and a bio of the filmmakers. There are 9 deleted scenes, most of which are not actually new scenes, but slightly more footage of scenes that were in the movie. They're not worth watching. The Photo Gallery features 10 photographs, some of which are of Schneebaum in his youth before he went to Peru. "Jungle Journey" is a children's book written in 1959 by Mary Britton Miller, inspired by Schneebaum's jungle experience, which he illustrated. A few pages of the book are included. The bios are text."
Amazing experience
Chris Luallen | 12/10/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"What a wonderful film by this brother-sister team - especially deserving of its many awards. (I think they won the Independent Spirit Awards best documentary, because I recall seeing the directors on that show.) Tobias schneebaum is truly an extraordinary man - and this reverse journey from his present to his past is sort of a reverse odysessy. The previous reviewer is missing the point - this film is not about indigine=ous peoples or anyone else - its about one man - and the directors have him in practically every frame - a wise choice. Only a few people could keep my interest for the length of a movie. Exceptional."
Retracing steps
E. L. Weinhold | Maryland, USA | 03/23/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"The filmmakers trailed Tobias Schneebaum, an artist turned anthropologist, back to the villages and lands where he worked over 40 years ago. It was fascinating to retrace Schneebaum's steps through Papua New Guinea, as well as the in the jungles of Peru. I was amazed at the courage and strength of a man in his 70s climbing Machu Pichu, and braving the rainforests of New Guinea in order to find old friends.The talk show footage from the 1960s/1970s was particularly interesting to me. The talk show host was very interested in the aspects of this "primitive" culture, and persisted with prejudiced questions. Mr. Schneebaum spoke for the people he studied, and helped people understand that they are no different. One qualm I had was the movie's subtitle: A Modern Cannibal's Tale. I felt that it was not a major part of the movie, and that the directors made a big deal out of it. Was it for marketing: Cannibals always sell? I do not think that a few isolated incidences of cannibalism make someone a life-long cannibal. It was silly to even put the word in the title. The movie offers so much more."