This film is part of Free

Across Bolivia

Unreleased footage of an expedition in Bolivia, filmed by British explorer and naturalist JC Bee-Mason.

1930 62 mins


This edited section of unreleased footage records an expedition in the forests of eastern Bolivia in 1928 made by Mamerto Urriolagoitia, Alejandro Siemal, Julian Duguid (author of the expedition book 'Green Hell'), and cameraman JC Bee-Mason. Following the arrival of a liner at Buenos Aires the film traces the route of the expedition into the interior of Bolivia. Bee-Mason’s preoccupation with filming wildlife is evident and there are scenes showing hunting and fishing as well as individual animals such as wild duck, an otter, an anaconda, a tarantula and a jaguar. The latter half of the film is taken largely from the railway but also contains some aerial shots of the mountains. Although the film was never released it was shown a number of times as part of a lecture in British cinemas.

Julian Duguid describes the setting up of the Bolivian expedition in his book ‘Green Hell’ (published in 1931) as essentially the coming together of a collection of individuals afflicted with wanderlust. JC Bee-Mason he describes as “lean wiry and tough as a baulk of last year’s timber, and, unhampered by diplomatic considerations, he spoke his mind with breezy candour.” He also alludes to the ‘commercial’ film, which Bee-Mason claims to be making of the expedition, though this is presented as his excuse for going traveling. It certainly appears the film was never released. The surviving footage has been edited in part, tinted and has some Spanish intertitles, presumably for release in South America. We could speculate that the coming of sound made the project too costly. What remains is a rare early glimpse into the interior of the Bolivian jungle, the wildlife, the terrain and some of its developing industry, principally mining. Along the way we see little of the local people but something of the interaction between the members of this remarkably good humoured expedition.