In 1961, Michael Rockefeller, amateur anthropologist and son of New York's governor, went to Dutch New Guinea with the mission of collecting artifacts of the cannibalistic Asmat natives who reside in the tidal swampland, and returning them to the Museum of Primitive Art of New York. Traveling along the coast, a safe distance from the treacherous interior, Rockefeller's catamaran was swamped by an unexpected tidal wave and he was last seen grabbing a floating jerry can and humping it toward shore. No trace of him was ever found.
The documentary Keep the River on Your Right sheds a lot of light on Asmat culture while introducing us to a man who has done as much as anyone to pull them out of the realm of scare stories: Tobias Schneebaum. Schneebaum has been a minor American curiosity for half a century; a respected artist on a Fulbright, he was an acquaintance of Normal Mailer and part of the East Village scene of the late 50s. He eventually gave up painting to go become a cultural taste-tester, exploring and actually settling down in outlying regions of the world, from the Amazon basin to Borneo to Bali and back again, always with a notepad and camera in hand. He's a man who, quite literally, has lived several lives.