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Cannibal Holocaust is a 1980 Italian horror film directed by Ruggero Deodato.

The film tells the story of a missing documentary film crew who had gone to the Amazon to film indigenous tribes. A rescue mission, led by the New York University anthropologist Harold Monroe, recovers their lost cans of film, which an American television station wishes to broadcast. Upon viewing the reels, Monroe is appalled by the team’s actions, and after learning their fate, he objects to the station’s intent to air the documentary. Much of Cannibal Holocaust is the portrayal of the recovered film’s content, which functions similarly to a flashback and grows increasingly disturbing as the film progresses.

Cannibal Holocaust achieved notoriety because its graphic violence aroused a great deal of controversy. After its premiere in Italy, it was seized by a local magistrate, and Deodato was arrested on obscenity charges. He was charged with making a snuff film due to rumors that claimed some actors were killed on camera. Although Deodato was later cleared, the film was banned in Italy, the UK, Australia, and several other countries due to its graphic depiction of violence, sexual assault, and the actual slaughter of seven animals.

After seeing the film, director Sergio Leone wrote a letter to Deodato, which stated, [translated] “Dear Ruggero, what a movie! The second part is a masterpiece of cinematographic realism, but everything seems so real that I think you will get in trouble with all the world.” […]

The courts believed that the actors who portrayed the missing film crew and the native actress featured in the impalement scene were killed for the camera. Compounding matters was the fact that the supposedly deceased actors had signed contracts with the production which ensured that they would not appear in any type of media, motion pictures, or commercials for one year following the film’s release. This was done in order to promote the idea that Cannibal Holocaust was truly the recovered footage of missing documentarians.

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Francesca Ciardi was one of four actors whom the Italian police believed had been murdered in the making of the 1980 horror film Cannibal Holocaust. So realistic was the film that shortly after it was released its director Ruggero Deodato was arrested for murder. The actors had signed contracts to stay out of the media for a year in order to fuel rumours that the film was a snuff movie. The court was only convinced that they were alive when the contracts were cancelled and the actors appeared on a television show as proof.

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