A documentary aired by the BBC about an Amazonian tribe has been slammed for being inaccurate and insulting, with the production company behind the programme accused of fabricating translations and using staged scenes for their show about “the most mysterious tribe in the Amazon jungle”. It turns out they have actually been studied in depth since the 1950s.
Mark & Olly: Living with the Machigenga was shown last year, with Mark Anstice and Olly Steeds spending several months with a village tribe in a bid to show what life is ‘really’ like in the jungle.
But the show is now being criticised after claims were made that much of what was televised was in fact staged, with tribe members being paid to act and say things out of the ordinary.
Survival International, a charity that support the rights of tribal people, has published a damning report into the programme, calling it a “false and insulting portrayal of the tribe as sex-obsessed, mean and savage”.
A key scene in the programme showed Olly being subjected to painful ant stings, since âaccording to Matsigenka tradition he must be cleansedâ? and âendure the ancient punishmentsâ? for buying deer meat. This has been now been denounced by experts as having no basis in modern day tribal life.
Mark and Olly have also been accused of staging a dramatic entrance to the tribal village, travelling on a well walked path only to veer a few feet away from it to film themselves hacking gallantly through the jungle. Traditional cotton tunics were also supposedly pre ordered so that all the tribe would be wearing one when they arrived.
Yet what perhaps is the most serious accusation is that TV executives misled viewers with inaccurate subtitles. An Indian who surprised Mark and Olly, thinking âthey were a herd of boarâ? is translated as, âIf you were colonists, he would have tied you up and cut off all your skin.â? Furthermore, âYou come from far away where lots of gringos liveâ? is translated as, âWe use arrows to kill outsiders who threaten us.â?
The production team behind the show were unavailable for comment when the report was presented to them by the charity, but I suppose this could be easily be translated to mean “oh shit, we’ve been rumbled’…”
UPDATE: The BBC have now responded to the claims by issuing a statement.