This film documents the train-wreck production and sudden shutdown of American Cannibal, the reality TV show produced by the promoter behind the Paris Hilton sex tape.This film documents the train-wreck production and sudden shutdown of American Cannibal, the reality TV show produced by the promoter behind the Paris Hilton sex tape.This film documents the train-wreck production and sudden shutdown of American Cannibal, the reality TV show produced by the promoter behind the Paris Hilton sex tape.
Nowhere in the movie do the filmmakers tip their hat as to whether this is a "real" documentary or simply a cleverly disguised facsimile of one. Each viewer is left to make that determination for himself. The film certainly SEEMS real as directors Perry Grebin and Michael Nigro initially set out to follow two struggling writers, Gil Ripley and Dave Roberts, as they pitch their ideas for "reality shows" to various producers on both coasts. Almost as a joke, one of the writers throws out the concept of a "Survivor"-type scenario in which a group of people are placed on an island where they are deprived of all food and, for all practical purposes, starved to death. And, oh yes, that island is the one place on the planet where cannibalism is reportedly still legal (one of the more far-fetched propositions that suggests that this may perhaps be tongue-in-cheek). It is this pitch that ultimately gets "green-lighted" by a producer, and much of the movie is devoted to showing just how a show like "The Ultimate Ultimate Challenge" travels the route from concept to completion (though, of course, in this case, the series never quite made it to the final stages).
A great deal of debate has arisen over whether those who made "American Cannibal" are documenting true events or whether they are just very effectively jerking our collective chain. Regardless of which of those two possibilities is the "truth," the movie makes some valid points about just how far viewers may be willing to go in their pursuit of entertainment. The movie also makes us question whether Ripley and Roberts - and those like them - are actually "pimps" or "whores" in their stop-at-nothing quest for the almighty buck. Grebin and Nigro interview many key players in the world of entertainment, and unless they are all in on the joke or are great actors in their own right, one begins to wonder if maybe this whole thing might just possibly be on the up-and-up after all. And if it isn't - if it really is all just an elaborate put-on - then the filmmakers may, in fact, be using their movie to dramatize just how fine the line is separating the world of fiction from the world of fact, even on so-called "Reality TV." In other words, their own movie may be both the "ultimate" reality show product and a stinging indictment of reality entertainment at one and the same time. Is this truly a case of the medium being the message? Either way, the movie is fun to watch and provides, at the very least, an acerbic insider's glimpse into how ideas are pitched and hit shows are born.
"American Cannibal" will fascinate some and frustrate others, but regardless of your response to it, you will have to admit that this is that rare movie where "truth" is pretty much left to the eye-of-the-beholder.
Just don't take it personally if you ultimately find that you've been made the butt of some colossal joke.
- Jan 3, 2008