Thursday, April 3, 2008

Film Crew Accused of Spreading Flu Epidemic to Peruvian Indians

A film crew of the British TV production company Cicada Films has been accused of spreading a flu epidemic to people living in isolated Matsigenka settlements in the Peruvian Amazon.

The regional indigenous rights group FENAMAD, the Peruvian government and US anthropologist Glenn Shepard claim the Cicada producer and his Peruvian filmmaker guide traveled without a permit to isolated settlements on the upper Cumerjali River in Manu National Park and apparently caused a respiratory epidemic killing four people and causing severe illness among many others.

Cicada has denied accusations of violating their permit and causing the deaths, stating they did not travel to the headwater region where the epidemic is said to have occurred. The team, "traveled only a short distance from the large town Yomibato, and only at the invitation of the local people," Cicada said in a statement.

Anthropologist and AAA member Glenn Shepard says he met the film team while he was doing work in Yomibato and warned them not to go to the isolated settlements.

"If the people at Cumerjali had wanted sustained, permanent Western contact, I told Currington, they would have moved permanently to Yomybato, as did many of their fellow relatives. However the ones who remained behind in Cumerjali did so for a reason: because they wanted to live in peace and tranquility, and because they wanted to be safe from the onslaught of Western diseases. I urged Currington and McLauchlan to 'leave these people in peace,' said Shepard in a written statement.

The film crew are believed to have been scouting locations for a sequel to Mark Anstice and Oliver (Ollie) Steed's TV series "Living with the Kombai," which was filmed among an extremely remote tribal group in New Guinea.

Survival International, an international organization that advocates for tribal people and human rights, has issued press releases to raise awareness of the issue and helped to prompt a series of English-language articles on the subject.

The following are some related news articles:

BBC News

The Guardian

Daily Mail (British national daily newspaper)

The Times
(British national daily newspaper)