Sunday, June 03, 2018

The Green Inferno

Inspired by the well-known cannibal film, Cannibal Holocaust, Eli Roth directs The Green Inferno (2013), a horror and adventure movie that portrays the controversial practice that was allegedly once part (or perhaps still is part) of the cultural rituals of some indigenous tribes living in the Amazon forest, human cannibalism. A group of young American humanitarian activists travel to the Peruvian Amazon to oppose the establishment of a multinational corporation helped by the local government which will destroy “untouched” areas of the jungle and kill indigenous tribes living there.

On their way to the Amazon, the group can see from the window of their plane the beautiful landscape of the rainforest: the predominant colour on the screen is the green of the jungle with some rivers crossing in between. Those images, and later the long trip by boat to the construction site, make the activists think that indeed the Amazon is an untouched environment in danger. They use as a strategy the exposition the corporation and the military supporting it (ready to kill the natives) on social media. Their plan seemed to have worked, so get on a plane on their way home after having saved the Amazon. Unfortunately, the plane crash in the middle of the jungle where they get kidnapped by a Cannibal tribe that tortures them one by one and prepare them as food for the whole tribe. Like Cannibal Holocaust, Roth makes the bloody killings look very realistic and transmits the feelings of the horrified activists. Nevertheless, the movie does not portray the cannibal tribe as evil or inhumane, on the other hand, Roth discusses different controversial traditions (including genital mutilation and cannibalism) and the difficulties on trying to eliminate or condemn certain practices that are deeply rooted in some cultures. The “human” side of the tribe is represented with the little girl that helps the protagonist Justine (Lorenza Izzo) to escape.

Justine finds her way out of a genital mutilation ceremony and runs into an armed conflict between another private corporation and the tribe. She uses this moment to get rescued and appeal for some real action to stop the destruction of the Amazon and the persecution of the tribe. Once she goes back to the U.S. she uses the influence of her father (lawyer in the UN) to denounce the private corporation’s abuse of human rights. At this point, Justine does not mention anything about her experience or how her group was assassinated by the tribe which will protect the tribe and strengthen the argument for the Amazon preservation.

In addition to displaying bloody and shocking scenes of cannibalism, this movie communicates a sarcastic opinion about activism and about efforts to protect the Amazon rainforest. Before the protest, all the activist group is seen excited about promoting meaningful changes in society and politics, but their efforts remain useless. By the end of the movie, we are taken to some point at the beginning of the movie when Justine was still at the university campus; she wakes up from a horrifying nightmare and the little group of activists that convinced her to travel to the Amazon are still protesting for some campus-related issue. Protecting the Amazon forest and its people is solely a fantasy. Even if there are people protesting for a good cause like preserving indigenous communities with centuries of history, there are numerous layers that make the issue more difficult to tackle such as the flow of money involved, corruption, or the fact that Amazon is not really “untouched” nature. Even those aspects of the tribes like cannibalism could change the way one thinks about them (Are cannibals worth fighting for?).

Various aspects of the Amazon forest are portrayed in the movie, but throughout it is suggested that it would be better not to venture too far in the jungle. The Amazon's dangers (be they human or natural) win out over the beauty of its green richness. Interestingly, there is nothing said about the protection of plants or animals of the Amazon like it is usually done in other Amazon or jungle movies. On the contrary, the plot shows little consideration to the animal life (a machete and a gun are given to the young Americans in case they find any animal in the jungle). Travelling to the Amazon for activism or tourism is portrayed as a worthless cause. Its landscape could seem very green, but its insides are more like an inferno for those who are not aware of how life is there.

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