Keep the River on Your Right

In 1955, while a Fulbright scholar, a Manhattan painter named Tobias Schneebaum spent seven months in the Amazon basin with the Harakambut. When he returned to the US, he could no longer paint. What happened? Nearly 45 years later, filmmakers want Tobias, now 78 and suffering from Parkinson’s, to return to Peru. He refuses but allows that he will revisit the Asmat in New Guinea where he spent an idyllic time years before. That trip goes well, including a serendipitous meeting with Aipit, an aging native and once Tobias’ friend and lover. Tobias then agrees to go to Peru to look for the people whom he joined on a murderous raiding party. The scars of war remain as does fear.

from IMDB

2 Replies to “Keep the River on Your Right”

  1. I have not seen it. I read the book of the same title and it was very interesting.

    Here is a review from IMDB:

    Keep the River on Your Right follows a 76 year-old New York City Bohemian artist-writer-self-styled traveler, Tobias Schneebaum, as he revisits the sites of his youthful wanderings among the jungle tribes of Peru and Papua New Guinea. Keep the River is a modest hodgepodge of film and tape which qualifies as an “independent” film. After a shaggy-dog tale of endurance over adversity, etc. one is left to wonder, So what?

    Schneebaum left behind a handful of books from his travels, one or two of which are, in their limited way, actually useful. In fact, it was my own abiding interest in Oceanic art, including the Asmat people of New Guinea and Schneebaum’s slim book, Asmat Images, which led me into the theater in the first place.

    Schneebaum is gay; his feminine passivity was a major factor in his ability to blend in with cannibalistic aborigines in New Guinea and Peru. He actually tasted human flesh at the prompting of the latter. His moral laxity, his moral relativism (“When in Rome …” etc., as stated by Charlie Rose when asking Schneebaum about his canabilism during a CBS interview), are not only taken for granted, but touted. I found this rather specious and self-serving, only too characteristic of the self-involved, self-preoccuppied self-exposure which seems to be the focus of so many narratives today, both on the page and screen. Schneebaum’s unconventionality in itself doesn’t make for real content, imo; I tired of him halfway through. And it doesn’t help matters that he tries to find homosexuality where ever he goes, claiming that it thrives in the tribes he visits, as justification for his own. (I give the movie credit for at least including a dissenting opionion: an anthropologist accuses him of doing just that.)

    I went in hoping to find out something new about the Asmat people, but instead got an earful of a rather self-involved decrepit Bohemian.” by bluesdoctor

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