Eliott de Bellabre, a peaceful and idealist young researcher, dreams of following in the footsteps of his heroes—who are famous anthropologists. Chantal, his mother, urges him to join her in China, where she is conducting a controversial study on nomadic peoples. He prefers to go to Guyana, to the last members of the Otopis tribe. A scholarship from the prestigious Collège de France helps finance the trip. Placed under the orders of an authoritarian chief, the "gentle savages" whom he had heard about turn to be a bunch of illiterate renegades who are gold traffickers, enslaved by an unscrupulous German mercenary. When Chantal doesn’t hear from her son for several days, she abandons her project to travel to Guyana.