Cannibal Holocaust: Controversy

Cannibal Holocaust, a film directed by Ruggero Deodato, first released in the year 1980. For those who are not familiar with the movie, the film follows the protagonist Harold Monroe, a professor of anthropology on his journey to find a missing documentary crew in the Amazon forest. However, he discovers that the crew have fallen victim to the Yanomamo tribe and have been brutally murdered. The tribe agrees to hand over the film reels, and Harold takes it back to New York. A broadcast company wishes to air the documentary, but Harold insists on watching it first. What he sees, however, is the documentary crew terrorizing the tribe before being murdered themselves. This includes rape, torture, murder and even a ritual abortion where a fetus is forcibly removed from the woman's body.

A huge amount of controversy rose, mainly from the film being 'much too realistic'. Questions were forced upon Deodato as to whether some of the scenes were genuine. Despite the brutal features listed previously, the main acts in the movie that are still highly controversial today were the scenes where real animals were slaughtered on set. Examples of these included a Coati (mistaken for a muskrat in the film), repeatedly stabbed and bludgeoned until death; a giant turtle, whose head was mutilated and cut off, and a monkey whose face is sliced from its head. (Behind the scenes, it was actually two monkeys, as Deodato wasn't happy with the first take made.)

The Italian authorities banned the film due to Deodato's heavy violation of the laws on animal cruelty. Him, the writer and producers, along with an America representative were convicted of violence and obscenity and given a four-month suspended sentence.

To make matters worse for Deodato, it had been found that he had made the actors sign contracts for him to state that they would not appear in any kind of media for the following year after the release of Cannibal Holocaust, to promote the plot idea that the film was actually the recovered footage of missing documentaries.

Eventually, Deodato was able to prove that the violence, gore and events during the film were staged. He had voided the contracts to avoid a life sentence in prison. Deodato was at one point made to appear on television with the actors in the film, to prove that the scenes of them dead were not genuine and that they were still alive. However, one of the effects shown in the film is where a native woman, after being raped, is impaled on a wooden spear. Italian authorities questioned if the woman had actually been killed to achieve this heavily realistic scene, and even forced Deodato and his special effects crew to demonstrate how they had managed to create the scene in an Italian court.

Deodato explained that a bicycle seat was attached to the end of a pole, which the actor sat upon. She then held a short length of a pole made of balsa wood in her mouth and looked skywards, giving the impression that she had been impaled. After this explanation, the courts were satisfied and dropped all murder charges against Deodato.

Although all charges were dropped, the film was still banned due to the genuine animal slaughtering which went against animal cruelty laws in Italy.


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