Incessant grandstanding and obsessive self-promotion are jammed so tightly into “House of the Tiger King” that the whole structure topples in on itself. David Flamholc’s dogged docu follows explorer/mythologizer Tahir Shah in his quest for Paititi, the legendary lost Incan city of gold deep within the Peruvian jungle. But Shah is no Indiana Jones, and his constant posturing is as off-putting as the petard he’s hoisted on. Cult status is slowly accruing at fests and rep-house showings, most likely leading to an afterlife on cable.
Idea was originally pitched at the 2001 Amsterdam docu fest, but Flamholc and his producer brother failed to get financing, and wound up bankrolling most of the expedition themselves. It’s difficult to know whether they were as gullible as they appear, or if they just thought the jungle expedition made for good entertainment. Shah convinces them he knows the location of Paititi, assisted by a brain-fried Vietnam vet named Richard Fowler who’s even more delusional. Nothing tangible comes from the hunt, and eventually Shah turns on Flamholc, probably because he’s realized the camera has revealed the emperor’s new clothes.