Human Studies Film Archives

Guide to the Dimitar Krustev films, 1971-circa 1977, 1996


Collection ID:
Krustev, Dimitar
1971-circa 1977
Physical Description:
2 Film reels
color silent reversal; 2,036 feet
1 Book
180 Slides
2 Sound cassettes
Dimitar Krustev was a painter, photographer, and writer who travelled in Central and South America to document vanishing cultures. This collection includes materials relating to trips to the Pirre highlands in Darién province of Panama, where he filmed the Choco.

Scope and Contents

Scope and Contents
The films in this collection were shot in the Pirre highlands in Darién province of Panama, and document the Choco. According to
The Journals of Dimitar Krustev
(1996), Krustev filmed with a Bolex in 1971 and again in 1977. The supplemental materials in this collection include a copy of
The Journals of Dimitar Krustev
, slides taken on his trips to Pirre, and audio cassettes of music (probably recordings of the Choco for the films).
Please note that the contents of the collection and the language and terminology used reflect the context and culture of the time of its creation. As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology and considered offensive today. The information within this collection does not reflect the views of the Smithsonian Institution or Anthropology Archives, but is available in its original form to facilitate research.


This collection is arranged in 2 series: (1) Films, 1971-circa 1977; (2) Supplemental Materials, 1971-circa 1977, 1996

Biographical Note

Biographical Note
Dimitar Krustev was born in Bulgaria in 1920. He emigrated to the United States when he was 19 because he did not want to live under soviet rule. He was later condemned to death by the Communist Party, leading him to seek American citizenship.
He graduated from the National Academy of Art in Sofia, Bulgaria, prior to his emigration. After reaching the United States, he earned his BA in Commercial Art from Kent State University and his Masters in Art History from the University of Iowa.
Krustev worked for nine years as a graphic artist for
Better Homes and Gardens
, while simultaneously working as a commissioned portrait artist. He then founded the Des Moines Krustev Studio of Art.
After becoming inspired by Rousseau's concept of the "Noble Savage," he made it his goal to paint and document disappearing, indigenous peoples. In pursuit of this goal, he travelled through Central and South America during the 1960s and 1970s. His student, later wife, Helen Marie came with him on many of these trips. The two travelled frequently between Des Moines and Ajijic, Jalisco, in Mexico for nearly 30 years before they moved to Ajijic in 2000. In addition to painting, Krustev was an avid photographer and writer. His paintings are held in a number of private collections and have been exhibited around the world.
Sources Consulted
Bercovitch, Heiyn. "Dimitar & Helen."
Lake Chapala Review
, February 2005.
"Dimitar Krustev."
Des Moines Register
, March 3, 2013.
Born in Bulgaria
circa 1939
Emigrated to the United States
Travelled through Central and South America documenting vanishing cultures
Moved to Ajijic, Jalisco (Mexico)
Died on February 11 in Ajijic


Katherine Christensen
Processing Information
Processed by HSFA staff
Encoded by Katherine Christensen, November 2020
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The materials within this collection were donated by the creator, Dimitar Krustev.

Using the Collection

Preferred Citation
The Dimitar Krustev films, Human Studies Film Archives, Smithsonian Institution
Conditions Governing Access
The collection is open for research. Please contact the archives for information on availability of access copies of audiovisual recordings. Original audiovisual material in the Human Studies Film Archives may not be played.
Conditions Governing Use
Contact the repository for terms of use.

Related Materials
Krustev's papers and journals are held at the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming, and some of his films are held at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.

More Information


River of the Sacred Monkey: Authentic Chronicle of Wilderness River Exploration in Central America, with a Valid Portrayal of the Last Remaining Descendants of the Vanishing Mayans
. Charleston: printed by the author, distributed by Wilderness Holidays, 1970.
Voices in the Night
. Des Moines: Studio Press, 1992.
The Journals of Dimitar Krustev, an Artist-Explorer, vol. 1
. Des Moines: printed by the author, 1996.
Black Hand Over the Jungle
. Des Moines: printed by the author, 1997.
Lacondón Journal-1969: From the Journals of Dimitar Krustev: Artist-Explorer
. Chicago: Editorial Mazatlan, 2013.


Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Choco/Chocoan Cultural Context Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Darien (Panama : Province) Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Human Studies Film Archives
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