Writer-director Fraser C. Heston has discovered a treasure trove of lost footage shot by adventure-author Milt Machlin during his expedition to the cannibal coast of New Guinea in 1969, in search of the lost scion, Michael Rockefeller, son of Governor Nelson Rockefeller. The film includes previously unseen footage and interviews, including some startling new never-before-released material, which sheds new light on the unsolved mystery of Michael’s disappearance.
“The disappearance of Michael Clark Rockefeller is one of the enduring unsolved mysteries of the 20th Century,” said helmer Heston, who is determined to turn Machlin’s unfinished film footage into the definitive documentary on the disappearance of the Rockefeller heir, titled THE SEARCH FOR MICHAEL ROCKEFELLER. While researching a screenplay based on Machlin’s book of the same title, Heston found “some fifteen-odd reels of raw and uncut film and sound tapes, which lay forgotten for forty years, gathering dust in a vault in New England,” said Heston. “It was only through serendipity, a little detective work, and the kindness of Milt’s widow, Margaret Machlin, that this film will see the light of day. In the tradition of Verner Herzog’s GRIZZLY MAN, we will create an entirely new film from Milt’s unfinished epic documentary, and bring it the kind of attention it deserves.”
On November 18th, 1961, Michael Rockefeller led a small expedition along the coast of New Guinea, collecting art among the Asmat, who were known as extraordinary artists - and also fierce head hunters and cannibals. Heavy seas swamped Rockefeller’s trading canoe in the Arafura sea. After a night adrift clinging to the wreckage, Michael left his companion with the fateful words: “I think I can make it.”
He was never seen again.
Or was he? Seven years later, in October of 1968, Milt Machlin was approached in his Argosy offices by a nefarious Australian smuggler known as “John Donahue”, who claimed to have seen “Michael Rockefeller, alive, in the Trobriand Islands, not ten weeks ago.
“If by the remotest flight of fancy, Donahue’s story should actually be true,” said Machlin, “Michael Rockefeller would have to be found. And I was determined to be the one to do it.”
With the cryptic clues given him by Donahue, his reporter’s intuition, and the name of an island that wasn’t even on the map, Milt set off for New Guinea to discover the truth for himself, and to find Michael Rockefeller, dead or alive. “Fortunately for us,” said Fraser Heston, “Machlin took along two 16mm cameras, a Nagra and several rolls of film and sound tape. This previously unedited film constitutes a remarkable pictorial record, not only of Milt Machlin’s expedition in search of Michael Rockefeller, but of the vanishing way of life of the cannibal-artists of the Asmat region of New Guinea.”
The film is built around the found-footage concept, combining archival materials with new footage and interviews. Heston was astonished to discover that Milt’s film also includes one remarkable shot of a naked “white man” paddling in a canoe full of Asmat warriors. “Milt left no clue to this shot in his notes, no speculation about who it was”, said Heston. “A mixed-race Asmat? An anthropologist “gone native”? Or even Michael himself? It’s simply another layer of the onion which surrounds the truth around the disappearance of Michael Rockefeller.”
Director Fraser Heston, with producers Alex Butler and Heather J. Thomas, editor Ted Hughes, and composer Jon Alexi, will complete THE SEARCH FOR MICHAEL ROCKEFELLER, now in post-production, in the fall of 2009. The adventure-documentary will be released by Heston’s Agamemnon Films. To view a trailer and for more info please visit www.searchformichael.com .