Keep the River on Your Right: A Modern Cannibal Tale (2000)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 9-Oct-2002

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Theatrical Trailer
Featurette-Tobias Schneebaum Interview
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 93:34
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Laurie Shapiro
David Shapiro

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Tobias Schneebaum
Case Click
RPI $24.95 Music Steve Bernstein

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    As the blurb on the back of the DVD cover says, this award-winning documentary "proves beyond doubt that truth is stranger than fiction". While the quality of the transfer is limited by the source material, I found the content completely engrossing.

    This documentary is the story of Tobias Schneebaum, a gay Jewish artist from New York. In the 1950s, Schneebaum won a Fulbright scholarship, and used it to travel and paint. Schneebaum, who later became an anthropologist, spent time in Asmat, New Guinea, living with a tribe of bi-sexual head-hunters and cannibals. If that was not adventurous enough, Schneebaum also disappeared into the uncharted Peruvian Amazon, to live with another tribe of cannibals, where he also partook of homosexual relationships, and also ate human flesh. Schneebaum seems to enjoy breaking taboos!

    Laurie and David Shapiro, who produced and directed this documentary, convinced Schneebaum, now aged in his late 70s, to return to both Asmat and the Amazon Jungle some 45 years later. In Asmat, Schneebaum is reunited with his former tribal lover, Aipit. Even more surprising, in the Peruvian Amazon, the documentary filmmakers manage to locate some of the scattered members of the cannibal tribe, some of whom remember Schneebaum.

   While there are some flaws with this documentary, especially in regards to the presentation of the sometimes confusing narrative, the content is thoroughly absorbing. Sometimes this documentary appears to be about human sexuality, and at other times it appears to be about the destruction and loss of tribal life, but it is always interesting. Be warned, however - some of the content is graphic and confronting, such as footage of the ceremonial circumcision of 30 tribal boys. What I found very interesting was that Schneebaum comes across as being very meek and ordinary, far from the adventurous and extraordinary person I was expecting. Schneebaum seems very gentle, sensitive, likeable, thoughtful, and thoroughly analytical. He has certainly enjoyed an interesting life.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    This shot-on-video documentary utilizes a variety of grainy and hazy source material, ranging from Super-8 film shot in 1973 to recent night-vision video tape. As such, the quality of the transfer is really limited by the source material, and often resembles a VHS tape.

    The transfer is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1, full frame.

    The sharpness of the image is variable throughout, and sometimes it is blurry. The shadow detail is also variable, and it is often poor.

    The colour is generally reasonable - the skin tones are accurate in the more recent colour footage.

    The image appears a little pixelated throughout, and at times it is hard to separate this from problems with the very grainy source material, such as at 31:59. In regards to film-to-video artefacts, aliasing appears as a slight shimmer at times, such as on the background carvings at 20:02. As expected, a variety of film artefacts appear throughout, but I did not find them too distracting. There also appears to be some mild edge enhancement at times, such as at 71:48.

    There are no subtitles present on this DVD.

    This is a single sided and single-layered DVD, which is adequate for this content.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There is only one audio option on this DVD, the original Dolby Stereo audio.

    The dialogue quality is not perfect, but very acceptable, considering many of the scenes are shot in difficult conditions. There are no major problems with the audio sync.

    The sparse original musical score is credited to Steve Bernstein, and it seems to be a form of percussive jazz fusion.

    As one would expect with Dolby Stereo audio, there is no surround presence nor subwoofer activity.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    The extras are slim.


    A very simple menu, presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

Theatrical Trailer (2:27)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with Dolby Digital stereo audio, this does a great job of selling the film.

Tobias Schneebaum Interview (15:15)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with Dolby Digital stereo audio, at 81, Tobias Schneebaum reflects on the film and its impact on his life.

Umbrella Propaganda

    A still displaying other DVD titles.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This documentary was released on DVD in Region 1 in October 2002.

    The Region 4 DVD misses out on:

    The Region 1 DVD misses out on:

    I would have to favour the R1 version, but only just -- Schneebaum is an interesting and adventurous man, but he isn't a great artist. Reviews of the R1 deleted scenes describe them as being merely "extended scenes".


    If the matters mentioned in the Plot Synopsis doesn't put you off, then I recommend you rent and watch this DVD. It's the sort of thing you'll find yourself talking about at your next dinner party - it really is amazing.

    The video quality is variable but still very watchable.

    The audio quality is limited but perfectly acceptable.

    The extras are slim.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Saturday, December 07, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayGrundig Elegance 82-2101 (82cm, 16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSony STR DE-545
SpeakersSony SS-V315 x5; Sony SA-WMS315 subwoofer

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Ben P - Daniel R
Jeff K's Australian DVD Info Site - Angela A

Comments (Add) NONE