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TigreroTigrero is a film of contrasts as
  legendary Hollywood character
  Samuel Fuller persuades fellow
  director Jim Jarmusch to join him
  when he returns to South America
  in 1993 to revisit the Karajá Indians
  for the first time since he first met
  them forty years before

DURING THE MID 1950s, Samuel Fuller (a film director whose credits include Naked Kiss, Shock Corridor, Steel Helmet and Park Row) went deep into the Brazilian jungle at the instigation of notorious Twentieth Century Fox studio boss Darryl F Zanuck to find inspiration for a new film project among the Karajá Indians. He found that the Karajá remained largely untouched by the then 20th Century they went without clothes, painted their bodies and had not yet learned the value of the dollar.

Although Sam returned to Hollywood with an idea for a movie called Tigrero — which was mooted as a vehicle for John Wayne, Ava Gardner and Tyrone Power and with nature as one of the main characters — the insurers considered it far too dangerous to go on location in South America and the project was dropped.

What Sam did go back to Hollywood with was an intriguing film of the Karajá at that time and a determination to one day go back to their village of Santa Isabel do Morro. Tigrero is the fascinating account of his return — with companion Jim Jarmush (Night On Earth, Coffee And Cigarettes) — and the changes he finds that have occurred over the years.

Karaja IndiansTravelling by plane from Rio de Janeiro in September, 1993, Sam and Jim then travel by canoe up the River Araguaia which — in spite of the many changes around it — appears to remain much the same. The Karajá are river Indians and therefore the Araguaia is of great importance to their culture. These indigenous tribesmen are a wholly good society, fiercely protective of their children and proud of their traditions.

Surprised to see so much of the bush cleared in what was almost impenetrable jungle, Sam also finds that the Karajá are wearing western clothes and that the youngsters covet American T-shirts. Sam is welcomed by the Indians, who seem every bit as pleased to see him as he is to see them. They are very excited by the prospect of watching the original footage that Sam shot and it is here that we realise what changes have taken place for the Karajá and their environment. The Karajá were delighted to see their friends and relatives alive once more and thanked Sam with a dance in his honour.

Tigrero is a vision from the eyes of cigar-smoking Sam — forty years after his first visit when he was armed with a 16mm camera, a rifle and a Beretta — and the fresh eyes of Jim. It is a fascinating and beautiful journey using both the original footage and a description of the potential Hollywood film that never was.

Produced, written, edited and directed by Mika Kaurismäki (Zombie And The Ghost Train), Tigrero is a must for the collection of any fan of film, film history, anthropology or unique documentary cinema and was filmed entirely on location at Santa Isabel do Morro, on Bananal Island, on the River Araguaia, at the town of São Felix do Araguaia, Mato Grosso — the biggest jungle in Brazil — and in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The natural and evocative music is by Nana Vasconcelos, Chuck Jonkey and The Karajá and the Director of Photography is Jacques Cheuiche. The film was based on an original idea by Christa Fuller-Lang and the Special Consultant on Karajá Indians is Joäo Américo Peret.

Tigrero comes to DVD, courtesy of Bluebell Films, on 17 November 2008. RRP: £14.99 | Running Time: 75 mins.

"Tigrero is a vision… a fascinating and beautiful journey…" — Maggie Woods, MotorBar