The film follows a number of European and American ecotourists as they travel from village to village throughout the Sepik River area in Papua New Guinea, driving hard bargains for local handcrafted items, paying to view formerly sacred ceremonies and taking photographs of every aspect of "primitive" life. With some prodding, the tourists unwittingly reveal an unattractive and pervasive ethnocentrism to O'Rourke's cameras. The tourists thus become somewhat dehumanized by the camera, even as the tourists themselves are busy exoticizing even the most mundane aspects of Sepik River life.
The title of the film can be read in at least a couple of ways. At one point early in the film, a German tourist, clearly titillated, describes the bygone practice of raiding and cannibalism. Cannibalism, the viewer also learns, was highly symbolic and often involved taking and wearing the skins of the victims. The film closes on a group of tourists who have painted their faces in "native fashion" and ape fierce gestures at one another as they dance.