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Finland, 1994 (MIFF 1994, Documentaries)

Director: Mika Kaurismäki

In 1954, Sam Fuller went to Brazil, into the Amazonian rain forest with a 16mm camera scouting locations for his adventure film, Tigrero, to star John Wayne, Ava Gardner and Tyrone Power. Fuller's inspiration - "A white bird on the river is seized by a crocodile. Blood brings a school of piranha fish that in seconds devour both, leaving only skeletons, then a bird sweeps down to snap up a piranha, thus giving me the visual history of the jungle, and also the plot of my fictional script" - was probably no reassurance for 20th Century Fox, who shelved the film as too risky (no one would insure the stars in such dangerous, unexplored locales). Except for a sequence he used in Shock Corridor, the 16mm footage shot by Fuller has never been seen - until now.

Forty years on, accompanied and interviewed by the laconic Jim Jarmusch, the enigmatic, cigar-chomping, 82-year-old Fuller returns to the Karaja village, reliving his scouting trip and reflecting on what became of the Indians (and himself) in the intervening years. Combining rare footage of the Indians' life and rituals as captured by Fuller's camera in the 50s with the astute contemporary observations of an older-but-wiser (or is that more wily!?) Sam Fuller, filmmaker Mika Kaurismaki has made a documentary road movie that travels in time as well as place.

Tigrero - The Film That Was Never Made is not just a fascinating footnote to cinema history but also a portrait of a remarkable character and director, an off-beat creative anti-hero (revered by younger generations of filmmakers, such as Wenders, Jarmusch and the Kaurismaki brothers) who has become a cult figure in his own right.

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