This Documentarian Journeyed Into Brazilian Rainforest To Search for Nazi Living With Chimpanzee Wife

Lead Photo: Courtesy of The Man of The Monkey
Courtesy of The Man of The Monkey
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Growing up on Ilha Grande, a remote island off the coast of Brazil, filmmaker David Romberg was told many folktales by his father, who had moved the family there to escape the military dictatorship in Argentina.
One of those stories, Romberg says, he could never get out of his mind as he got older. It was the story of a German man, a former Nazi, living in isolation in the depths of the Brazilian rainforest with a female chimpanzee that he had taken for his wife.

“That fascinated me so much, it lingered well into my adulthood,” Romberg says in his director’s statement. “My father warned, ‘You must never venture too far in the forest or he will capture you.’”

In the documentary Man of the Monkey, which recently won Best Documentary Feature Film at the Best of NewFilmmakers Los Angeles Awards, Romberg takes a trip back to Ilha Grande to “unravel the mystery” behind that specific story and the “complex history” of his family, which includes his grandmother’s escape from Nazi Germany.

“What I ultimately discovered in my journey, would irreversibly change my understanding of my family’s history,” Romberg says. “What started as a journey to find the meaning behind a childhood tale, became an unfolding of a transgenerational trauma that I had also inherited.”

Other Latino talent who won a NewFilmmakers Los Angeles Award include Philip Alexander Narvaez for best cinematography for the short film Acuitzeramo; Vico Ortiz for his performance in the short film Misdirection; and several Latino musicians in the documentary Fandango at the Wall for best score.