Over this Thanksgiving break, I watched the 2014 horror movie “Green Inferno.” I think this movie is extremely relevant, specifically in regards to our class discussions on the use of world music in popular culture. The movie takes place, for the most part, in the Peruvian jungle. A group of young activists find themselves being held hostage by a group of cannibalistic natives after a plane crash.
A couple things about this movie caught my ear, specifically in the intro and the later scenes. The first part of the is a sort of credits scene that is presumably shot from a helicopter as it flies over the dense jungle. In the background, drums play to a very pronounced beat that sounds like it has been used in every Jungle movie. Modern, professional drums were clearly used. I could tell that the music was certainly not authentic to any native culture; it was much too banal and typical of a movie of this sort. However, the real shocker came later in the film, when the group had already been captured by the natives. The same drumbeat was playing, even as the camera focused in on a very specific group of native musicians playing native instruments.
After doing some research, I discovered that the tribe portrayed in this movie is completely fictional. Even so, I am not sure it is completely ethical to portray any indigenous peoples as they were in this film. A number of things were completely incorrect. For example, there is no evidence that cannibalism is ritually practiced in any Amazonian culture. Most reports of cannibalism come from Papua New Guinea and other related tribes. Second, the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) plays a large part in the film. Again, FGM is only practiced in the Middle East and in Africa, not in South America. The incorrect music that is played during this film is only icing on the cake; with all the other incorrect assumptions uneducated viewers might make about Amazonian peoples after watching this movie, the music only adds yet another. In addition to being poorly made, this film really reflects the failure of the producers to do even basic research on indigenous peoples in Peru. Let me know what you think, but please refrain from watching the movie.