To avoid prison, Marquess Robert de Wavrin (1888-1971) traveled to South America in 1913. The aristocrat swapped Castle Ronsele for the jungle and enjoyed going places no one had ever been. The photographer and filmmaker became a pioneer of ethnographic cinema. The indigenous people viewed him as a pipe-smoking sorcerer, but also respected this Belgian who preferred to sleep in an Indian hut rather than a hotel.
The makers of Marquis de Wavrin, du manoir à la jungle have created an intriguing film from the eponymous character’s expeditions using fascinating archival material, including his beautiful photographs and anthropological films. The marquess filmed now lost tribes including the Pareci Indians and photographed the headhunting Shuar people’s Tzantza ritual, which involved a shaman shrinking the heads of enemies into wearable totems. This never devolves into mere exoticism, however: De Wavrin was genuinely interested in the indigenous people he documented.