The ‘Lost Rambos’ of Papua New Guinea: how weapons and Hollywood changed tribal disputes

Tribal fighting has long been present in the Papua New Guinea highlands, but the influx of modern automatic weaponry in the 1990s turned local disputes into lethal exchanges that threatened to permanently reshape highlands culture. Bootleg copies of the American film Rambo circulated in remote communities, becoming a crude tutorial on the use of such weaponry. The influence of the film was so pronounced that the term Rambo is now used in Papuan dialects to describe hired mercenaries who are paid to support local combatants in violent tribal disputes. Here we meet the fighters and the peacekeepers trying to navigate a path between tradition and modernity.
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