The Papua New Guinea echo
Democracy alive & well in PNG; but the times are dangerous

'Cannibal Crusade': A bloody disgusting load of nonsense

Grainger-s-world-cannibal-crusade-5PETER KRANZ

SORRY to have to say this, but I have just seen the most egregious piece of pseudo-anthropological nonsense ever shown on Australian television.

It is entitled Cannibal Crusade and has just been screened on Channel 7; a sham perpetrated by Greg Grainger who should know better. Its very title says all that needs to be said.

The mockumentary purports to be an exciting trek into the untouched wilds of West Papua, in the Baliem Valley and amongst the Dani and Asmat peoples.

Grainger relentlessly portrays the timeworn western stereotypes about the Melanesian people.

And I lost count of the times it mentioned "natives", "savages", "cannibals" and " animalistic" in describing local cultures.

The series is a disgrace and Grainger should be ashamed of it.

True, he admits that the reports of cannibalism are more than 20 years old but then he goes to excruciating lengths to suggest it is alive and well, even describing how good human flesh tastes and how to carve up a body.

It is an atrocious piece of anti-Melanesian propaganda.  That it was ever made is a mystery; that it was just re-shown on Channel 7 is an abomination.

It kind of said to its audience, ‘Let's all have a laugh at the cannibal savages of New Guinea and praise the brave whities who dare to go amongst them’.

A bloody disgusting load of nonsense.


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Peter Kranz

Interestingly, this film 'Cannibal Crusade' appears to have been sponsored by the Indonesians and couldn't have been made without their cooperation. I portrays the Indonesians as the civilizers of the cannibal savages.

And I forget to mention the enthusiastic camera work on naked village women and men's kotekas (including what Greg says is the biggest one he's ever seen)

So we have a new class of film-making here - cannibal pornography. Except that George Romero was there before (Night of the Living Dead etc.).

Arthur Williams

Just finished reading 'Savage Life in NG' - actually Papua as we now call it - by Charles Abel published in 1902.

In it he retells a story by a convert called Wadeka of Barabara who earlier in his life was part of a revenge attack on Maivara village where they captured a man and woman.

These unlucky folk were taken onboard the victors' canoe and eventually eaten with great rejoicing. Abel also tells of he and his wife meeting Tamate some time before the missionary James Chalmers had been eaten by people of Goaribari in Gulf.

My wife's grandfather told me of his having eaten a Tigak islander's flesh in after a carefully planned payback.

There were recent reports in the National Press of cannibalism in a remote part of Madang. It echoes the story in UK's Telegraph of 13/07/13: 'Papua New Guinea charges 29 alleged cannibals'.

"Authorities have arrested 29 people accused of being part of a cannibal cult in Papua New Guinea's jungle interior and charged them with the murders of seven suspected witch doctors, police said on Friday."

Paul Oates once wrote of .finding a slim, yellowing, paperback edition titled "Cannibalism and Human Sacrifice" by Garry Hogg Copyright 1980 and published by Coles The Book People - Buffalo - New York.

He quoted: "… when the author came to the island of New Guinea, there was an interesting anecdote from the annals of Lieutenant-Governor and Chief Judicial Officer JHP Murray who in a footnote wrote: '"Certain tribes here like human flesh and do not see why they should not eat it. Indeed, I have never been able to give a convincing answer to a native who says "Why should I not eat human flesh?"

As Chris says a glance around the world and indeed history shows it ain't just a PNG thing. Undoubtedly cannibalism did happen historically in PNG and during WW2 we have reports of Japs eating to survive.

Some years ago I saw a Jap documentary of of a person hunting for the soldier who had allegedly eaten his dead or 'almost dead' comrade. In the documentary it is suggested that there were two types of human meat: 'white pig or black pig and that the latter was harder to get as the natives were too clever for most battle weary and starving japs to catch'.

The white was ambiguously said in one part to be only foreign soldiers but in another part it was hinted that fellow countrymen too were eaten if killed in action and even at end of war any troublemakers would be also selected for killing. At the end of the film we are told that the researching ex-soldier died in prison.

It is not stereotyping to report on historical events and apparently there are many recorded events of cannibalism by 'white on white' in European history.

We all know how exploitative the documentary and movie world is of any event - the more scary, gory and horrific the better.

But then again as several have posted here it's money that drives so much human endeavour that most of the world celebrates the billionaires while ignoring the fact that 62 of the richest multi-billionaires own as much wealth as the poorer half of the world’s population.

If you can't beat them why not eat them, to paraphrase Lt Gov Murray said. I'm putting on a lot of weight too.

Chris Overland

I think that the article referred to be David Fedele is a classic example of over thinking a problem.

It is arguably true that documentaries are inherently exploitative in so far as their aim is, first and foremost, to find and engage an audience of some description and then put across a particular point of view, usually that of the Director or, perhaps, the financial backer.

After all, why bother to make a documentary at all if this wasn't the case.

However, I'd hotly dispute that most documentaries about places like PNG are inherently exploitative, let alone colonial in nature.

That some, like "Cannibal Crusade", indisputably fit this category does not prove the rule. Some are and some aren't: it is as simple as that.

Any documentary will reflect, to some degree at least, the ideas, outlook and cultural norms of its maker. It would be amazing if this was not the case.

However, it is fanciful to say that every documentary made by a white person about the developing world necessary reflects an exploitative and colonial outlook.

The article referred to by David, well intentioned as it undoubtedly is, has taken a genuine concern for any film maker about the existence of a pre-existing cultural, political and intellectual biases that may influence the structure and presentation of a documentary, and converted it into general thesis that all white film makers are inherently racist.

In doing so, the author is really arguing a political position and, arguably, a racist one at that.

Bernard Corden

Many apologies, the Leonard Cohen line is " Everybody knows the boat is leaking, everybody knows the Captain lied"

Bernard Corden

Bob Dylan's song It's alright Ma' I'm only bleedin', which is from His Bringing It All Back Home album, contains the line " Money doesn't talk it swears"

My favourite however is from Leonard Cohen and it is quite appropriate given the current PNG situation "Everybody knows the boat is sinking, everybody knows the Captain lied"

David Fedele

"Navigating the River: The Hidden Colonialism of Documentary."

Here is a link to a very interesting article that talks about the strong links (historical and current) between documentary filmmaking and colonialism" -

"The brutal truth is that the history of documentary filmmaking is rooted explicitly in cultural, racial, gender and class-based colonialism.

For decades upon decades, Western filmmakers—almost exclusively white men—traveled to other countries and cultures to extract resources (footage), which they would exploit (edit) for the benefit of their home culture (theaters, film festivals, PBS, etc.).

This flow of power, and along with it the control over these stories, historically traveled in one direction—from those without it to those with it."

Bernard Corden

Hi Chris, It appears you have Ben's comments attributed to my name.

Fixed now, Bernard - KJ

Chris Overland

Ben Klewaip is guilty of the racial stereotyping of which Caucasian people are so frequently accused.

What is on display in "Cannibal Crusade" is not peculiarly "white" in character: it is all about money.

Those in pursuit of money frequently care nothing for race, culture, colour or creed.

Sensationalism, exaggeration, provocation and offensiveness are just tools of trade for them.

Pandering to the lowest common denominator has always been a lucrative activity.

As the co-founder of the Barnum and Bailey Circus, Phineas T Barnum, famously said, "no-one ever went broke under estimating the intelligence of the public".

So, Ben, it is not Mr Grainger's whiteness that is the issue here. Rather, it his calculating use of the above mentioned tools of trade to exploit the credulousness, ignorance and sheer stupidity of his intended audience to make a quick buck.

He is not the first to do this. I have in my possession a book titled "Cannibal: A Photographic Audacity" by James L Anderson (published by A.H. & A.W. Reed, 1970), in which the author purports to show a first contact patrol amongst the Biami people.

The reference to cannibalism is purely an attention grabbing device, hardly central to the real story, which about the trials and tribulations of patrolling in the remote parts of PNG.

In using this device, Anderson (like Grainger) is following a well trodden path.

I am sure that any collateral damage to the reputation of those labelled cannibals caused no concern whatever to author or film maker alike.

From their point of view, it is just marketing and, after all, the subjects are hardly in a position to complain, much less hire a decent defamation lawyer.

Ben is entitled to take offense but should direct his anger at the real cause of that offense, which is not skin colour but the pursuit of money to the exclusion of all other considerations.

This is not the exclusive preserve of white people as an even cursory glance at what goes on around the world will clearly show.

Ben Klewaip

Money belongs to the whites and that's where evil started in the white man's world! No wonder these stupid white creatures come into our land to create nonsense out of their visits and make money out from it. Bloody lunatics!

Bernard Corden

I spent four years in Lae and have travelled extensively throughout PNG between 2006-2010. In 2011 I returned to Merseyside in the UK for my mother's funeral and felt much more intimidated walking through the streets of the local sink housing estates than strolling through Eriku or Top Town market in Lae.

Daniel Kumbon

Peter, I did not mention this experience in my recent book ‘I can see my country clearly now’ which is currently available on and other major book sites around the world but now that you bring up the subject, let me briefly share my experience here.

In 1991, my blood boiled when I read an article in the June edition of the Weekly World News I bought in a bookshop in Cleveland, Ohio. It said a brave missionary and his entire family of four was eaten alive by ‘wild eyed Tuari tribesman as soon as they arrived at the tribal camp in the steamy jungles of New Guinea’.

A government investigator was supposed to have told a Weekly World News reporter, “We told them the Tuaris don’t want anybody preaching God to them. They are perfectly happy worshipping the devil and eating any unsuspecting white man who comes along. Those people eye a white man the way most of us eye a nice juicy steak.’

Three months later on September 14 a Baptist Church Pastor (name withheld) operating in the Southern Highlands told a Plain Dealer reporter that several tribes on the island of New Guinea still observe cannibalism.

He was quoted as saying, “They say human meat is better tasting than any other. Mostly, they kill their enemies and eat them. They use skulls to decorate their houses. Other tribes are careful about going to their areas.’

I just couldn’t believe that an honest missionary could go to America and tell people that Papua New Guineans were still living in the stone-age.

To make it worse I was an Alfred Friendly Press Fellowship program fellow at the Plain Dealer in Cleveland and I was so upset with this pastor. What did the journalists at the Plain Dealer think of me? Another cannibal in whiteman’s clothes?

Cannibalism was never practised by my Enga people in the olden times and believe me I was so infuriated. I rang the good pastor and gave him a verbal bashing.

I later learnt that he was with his ‘illiterate pastor’ visiting church congregations across America - from the west to the east coast collecting ‘much needed funds’ to convert cannibalistic tribes in PNG to Christianity.

That was the good pastor’s motive – to collect money from the American public. The News of the World tabloid newspaper wanted to make money. Another London-based tabloid called Rolling Stone had published a similar article in the mid-eighties to make money.

I remember one line in which the author had landed in Mt Hagen where ‘people cuddle your balls for a handshake....’

What absurdity! The world has gone crazy chasing money, it seems.

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