Beyond the Andes

Richard Matt
M. Pecci De Nictolis
Production Date: 
Richard Matt
Charles Taylor
Run Time: 
Johnson Motors

NOTE: This film contains demeaning and offensive material and may not be suitable for all viewers.  It reflects stereotypes of Native peoples prevalent in the mid-20th century. Its attitudes are not those of, nor are they endorsed by, the American Indian Film Gallery.

Establishing shot: Shot of Shipibo man from waist up looking off-camera right while playing drum.  Clouds in background.  Corporate film from Johnson Motors


Named locations: Amazon rainforest (0:33 and throughout); Pantanal (0:35); Lima, Peru (1:50); Ucayali River (6:13); Lake Inuria? (12:21, 19:32); Rio Tambo? (14:22); Alto Tamaya River (14:25)


Major themes covered: fishermen visit Indian settlements as they take dugout boat through the Ucayali River of eastern Peru in search of killer piraña
Native activities shown: 

Campa/Ashaninka activities depicted in the film:  marching through jungle toward camera (10:16);


Campa/Ashaninka activities implied or alluded to in the film:  being headhunters, shrinking heads (10:15, 10:28)


Shipibo activities depicted in the film: three young women sitting on ground as narrator’s fishing group approaches (11:30); young women brushing hair (11:42);

young girl with face painted and chin adorned, in traditional patterned dress, looking straight into the camera (11:54); group of women ostensibly greeting fishing group (11:54); woman apparently working on or etching ceramic bowl (11:55); young man in traditional tari approaching fishing group and group of women, taking something metal, presumably fishing tool, from American man (12:19); men fishing for paiche (12:30 – 13:15); man beating wetland area with dried palm frond in order to drive paiche toward target (12:34); man throwing spear (12:43); man bringing speared paiche up into canoe, holding it up for size (12:55); large group of Shipibo men and women in traditional dress approaching shoreline of lake, ostensibly to greet fishing party.  Men holding bows (20:33); Man identified as chief taking machete from Juan, the fishermen’s guide (21:02); two women sitting on the ground and mixing food in a large black bowl (21:16); man identified as chief leading fishermen past pyramid of kindling/sticks, to a bed where a Shipibo woman is laying face down and agonizing, apparently in mourning (though it is more likely she is acting) (21:33); man identified as chief eating and apparently chatting with fishermen (21:53); women making what appears to be ayahuasca, spitting into brew (22:09); man with group of men dragging resisting woman toward camera (22:22); man identified as chief pointing out something, presumably a sloth, to one of the fishermen (22:28); man identified as chief shooting arrow into lake (22:34); man identified as chief seeing fishermen off, waving (23:18); group of people, possibly not Shipibo, eating meat off the bone sitting on the floor of the jungle (28:42); man identified as chief playing drum as in opening/establishing shot (29:05)


Shipibo activities implied or alluded to in the film: having flat heads (2:22); having matriarchal social/political structure (11:21); Shipibo women mutilating casualties of tribal war (11:40); women giving husbands dose of floripondio (brugmansia), turning husbands into zombies (11:52); chewing coca leaves (24:04); eating raw meat (28:42)


Individuals Named: Atahualpa (2:06); “Juan” (3:49 and throughout)
Native language spoken: none

Print resources:

Behrens, Clifford A. "Shipibo Food Categorization and Preference: Relationships between

          Indigenous and Western Dietary Concepts." American Anthropologist. 88.3 (1986):


Article explores Shipibo diet and nutrition.  Finds that Shipibo conception of a good meal is not all that dissimilar from the Western conception.


Follér, Maj-Lis. Environmental Changes and Human Health: A Study of the Shipibo-

          Conibo in Eastern Peru. Göteborg: University of Göteborg, Dept. of Peace Research  

          and Human Ecology, 1990.

This study focuses on the healthcare and environmental threats facing the Shipibo. Includes chapters on ethno-history, infant mortality rate, and cosmology in Shipibo culture.


Gianturco, Paola, and Toby Tuttle. In Her Hands: Craftswomen Changing the World.

          Huntington, N.Y: Monacelli Press, 2000.

This book contains stories of women artisans and craftswomen from around the world and discusses the social, political, and economic effects of their work.  Includes a chapter on Shipibo pottery entitled “ Peru : Rosa and the Shipibo potters.”


Roe, Peter G. The Cosmic Zygote: Cosmology in the Amazon Basin. New Brunswick, N.J:  

          Rutgers University Press, 1982.

This ethnography offers a broad overview and interpretation of the cosmology and mythology of various Amazon tribes, including the Shipibo.  A PDF of the full text of this book can be found here:


Non Requenbaon Shinan =: El Origen De La Cultura Shipibo-Conibo : Leyendas,

          Historias, Costumbres, Cuentos. Lima: Fundación Cultural Shipibo-Conibo, 1998.

This volume provides legends and myths of Shipibo-Conibo culture in both Spanish and Shipibo languages.


Shanon, Benny. The Antipodes of the Mind: Charting the Phenomenology of the

          Ayahuasca Experience. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Oft-cited work gives broad overview of what is understood to be ayahuasca experience.  Includes chapters on visualizations, stages and order of visualizations and experiences, and contextual information.


Varese, Stefano. Salt of the Mountain: Campa Asháninka History and Resistance in the

          Peruvian Jungle. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2002.


This ethnographic study affords an insight into Ashaninka cosmology and mythology. 

Web resources:

Ethnologue site on Shipibo:

Includes statistical information on Shipibo peoples and their language usage.


Every Culture page on Shipibo:

Fairly comprehensive but not academic page includes information on history of Shipibo, Shipibo fishing economy, sociopolitical structures, and conceptions of kinship.  Some of the information on this page contradicts information presented in the film—e.g. this page states that Shipibo is a patriarchal culture.


Catholic Encyclopedia entry on “Sipibo Indians”:

Early and blatantly insensitive encyclopedia entry gives background and history of Shipibo tribe, including encounters with missionaries and the Spanish.  Brief description of customs and culture.


National Museum of the American Indian page on Shipibo art:

Includes brief description of tribal life and textile use in the Amazon, pictures of and information on Shipibo-Conibo textiles and ceramics, and a quote from founder George Heye about trip to Amazon.


“Shipibo Craftswoman”:

Part 1 of longer video showing Shipibo woman creating traditional Shipibo textile art.  Song in video corresponds to pattern in artwork, as Shipibo have specific music to accompany their art.


“Communion with the Infinite” by Howard G. Charing

Short article focuses on “visual music” of Shipibo artwork.  Discusses women’s role in creating Shipibo art and craftwork, and connection between artwork and traditional Shipibo songs.  Includes pictorial examples of Shipibo textile artwork.


“A Reality We Cannot Deny: The Future of the Indigenous People of the Amazon”:

Open letter ostensibly drafted by Shipibo tribal council, posted on Fellowship of Jesus Christ-affiliated website, detailing present-day concerns of Shipibo people.  More specifically, discusses environmental, economic, healthcare threats to Shipibo life in the Amazon.


“Ayahuasca: The Magical Brew of the Amazonian Shamans”:

Extensive article covers psychoactive, hallucinogenic qualities of ayahuasca.  Discusses origins of use and how the root is made into a brewed drink.  Seems to be intended for people who want to partake of ayahuasca.  Includes links to references.


“Shipibo Ayahuasca Shamans”:

Interviews with Shipibo users of ayahuasca regarding their experiences.  Conversations cover a wide range of subjects.


Ethnologue site on Ashaninka:

Includes statistical information on Ashaninka peoples and their language usage.


“The Ashaninka: A Threatened Way of Life,” The Atlantic:

Impressive photo-essay from The Atlantic gives brief historical and cultural information on Ashaninka.  Discusses threats to Ashaninka posed by urban development in the Amazon.



--Adam Iddings, 2013