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Reality TV>> Machigenga Tribe • Peru

Published: Monday 29 August 2011

imageA TV show that claimed to show the “reality of life” of an Amazonian tribe has been slammed for faking scenes and mistranslating interviews to perpetuate stereotypes.

Mark and Olly: Living with the Machigenga was shown on the Travel Channel and on the BBC last year. The show claimed to follow British explorers Mark Anstice and Oliver Steeds as they “brave(d) oppressive heat, torrential downpours and dangerous wildlife to experience life with the Machigenga tribe in the Peruvian Amazon”. But Glenn Shepard, an anthropologist who has worked with the tribe for 25 years and speaks their language, and Ron Snell, who grew up with the tribe as the son of US missionaries, described the show as presenting an insulting portrayal of the tribe.

Shepard wrote that a subtitle translated a tribesman’s speech as, “We use arrows to kill outsiders who threaten us.” He asserted that the man said, “You come from far away where gringos live.” Snell said the translator for the show told of his disillusionment with the whole affair. He kept going because of money and is ashamed, Snell blogged. BBC said it would never air the programme again, adding it was acquired from the transnational FreemantleMedia, which absolved itself of guilt saying it only distributed the programme made by Cicada Productions in the UK. Cicada denied any knowledge of the allegations.

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