American Cannibal – #94 of 100 Top Hoaxes

In 2006 a new documentary came out that followed a couple of aspiring filmmakers as they struggled to get a project off the ground. Eventually the pair sells out to make a reality TV series…with disastrous results…

At least that’s what they want you to think…

To be truthful I don’t know that this is a hoax, as the filmmakers haven’t come out and said so, but come on, it has to be! Spoilers ahead, so if you’re planning on seeing American Cannibal, stop reading now!

The filmmakers, Perry and Michael, team up with a TV producer with questionable morals to come up with a survivor-style reality show in which they would push the contestants to their limits. They want to see how far people are willing to be pushed for reality TV fame, even if that means cannibalism.

The whole think gets shut down, though, when an “accident” puts a halt to production. At the end of the film one of the contestants gets injured, and it’s all very mysterious. You see very little, no close-ups, and you don’t get a clue as to what kind of injury it is. The contestant is a thin young woman, so the assumption is that she collapsed after having been deprived of food for too long. At least that’s the assumption I made. After the accident the rest ofAmerican Cannibal shows Perry and Michael feeling guilty and trying to figure out from the girl’s family if she’s okay.

As soon as I finished watching I hit Google to see if I could find out what happened to this girl. Is she even still alive?

I quickly came across this video, which shows her accident from a different perspective, showing that the accident was no accident. It appears to show another contestant flipping out and punching or knifing the girl in the face.

But was it a set up? Why was the picture so grainy, and why wouldn’t the filmmakers have any idea what happened to the girl? Why isn’t this girl’s family or the other contestants on the show speaking out against them? Something’s not right here. American Cannibal‘s website says this about the girl:

Q: What happened to the girl?

MN: The girl on “The Ultimate Ultimate Challenge/Starvation Island” appeared to be badly injured and we looked into that further than is shown in the film.  One of the producers spoke to her not long ago, and apparently she’s okay.

PG: This question comes up a lot and although the movie is about the human cost of reality-entertainment, it’s not about a contestant or her injury and we’re not interested in exploiting it.  However her injury does highlight the public frenzy for real-life drama Ð the media love a damsel in distress, and the public seems to want to know about it —

MN: Particularly when she’s busty and blonde and white.  Laci Peterson, The Runaway Bride, Natalie Holloway, the Aruba girl, Jessica Lynch.

PG: If there’s more to the story, or even if there isn’t, surely several newspapers will find room on their pages to talk about it.  Extra ink if she’s dead and/or nude.

They’re leaving a lot open to speculation, which makes me think that this is all for publicity. After the film premiered at Tribeca the New York Times reported this:

But is it true? An e-mail message that I was sent claims it is not.

“The big secret is that this ‘provocative’ and ‘penetrating’ documentary is not a documentary at all. The whole thing was staged,” said the message, from someone using the name “mistermovieguy,” which circulated last week. The author of the message, who did not respond to e-mailed questions — suggested that he or she had worked on the film and could say with certainty that “it’s all made up.”

The men who made “American Cannibal,” Perry Grebin and Michael Nigro, say that the e-mail message suggesting their movie is a hoax is itself a sham. But they managed to be both earnest and cagey about their documentary when I met them over lunch at a coffee shop in Midtown Manhattan on Friday.

“I am not out to prank anyone,” said Mr. Grebin, who used to work in television news. “We hope that people will be engaged by the blurry line of what is real and what may or may not be.

“We created scenarios in which events unfolded, over which we did not have control, which is very consistent with the documentary tradition,” he said.

“We don’t want to lie, but we want people to peel back the layers of the onion,” said Mr. Grebin. “Nobody really wants to look at truth; they want to see the circus, so we gave them a circus. We used elements of reality TV to make a movie about reality TV.”

So is “American Cannibal” reality, reality television, a comment on reality television or an outright hoax?

If there isn’t a satisfactory answer, perhaps it is because all reality seems to have quotation marks, asterisks, parentheses and a herd of question marks around it…

I love this hoax (or non-hoax) because it’s still a mystery, and it’s a whole lot of fun trying to figure it out! There’s a lot of fun speculation out there, I recommend doing some creative Googling after seeing the movie. Enjoy!

See a list of hoaxes counted down so far after the jump.

100.  Bridezilla Freaks Out About Her Hairdo
99. The Joe Schmo Show
98. The Crying Indian
97. Ivar’s Underwater Billboards
96. Well to Hell
95. Great Comics Switcheroonie
94. American Cannibal


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