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Man of the Monkey

David Romberg
Robert Girvin

Imagine the fantastical daydreams that a nine-year-old boy must have had after listening to his father tell him the tale of "Man of the Monkey": "There is a scary man living in isolation with a female chimpanzee as his wife, somewhere here on the island where we live." This boy wondered, was "Man of the Monkey" a monster who would attack anyone that came near him or was he a wild adventurer like Tarzan? As one could imagine, this story remained with the boy throughout his childhood as he was puzzled by many unanswered questions. That young boy is now filmmaker David Romberg. The mystery of this story takes David back to his childhood home in the mountainous rainforest of Ilha Grande, Brazil, in order to search for "Man of the Monkey". On this journey, David, whose family is of Jewish descent, shockingly discovers that "Man of the Monkey" is an escaped Nazi. He also comes to find out that the island, which was a refuge for the filmmaker's father after fleeing political persecution in Argentina during the 1970s, was paradoxically home to a prison for Brazilian political dissidents during that same time period. In this personal documentary, strange parallels emerge between the people, places, and stories of Ilha Grande. David's unique journey retraces the tracks that brought his father and "Man of the Monkey" to the same remote island in search of sanctuary. The film confronts David's childhood fantasies with complex realities that are more fascinating than frightening, and contrasts the power of myth with the intricacies of reality.

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