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Apocalypto

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  • Apocalypto

    Aside from all the allegations of racism I'm starting to think that Mel Gibson is a bit of a sadist - judging by the content of the movies he has directed.

    This isn't too much different - though it is visually interesting, it doesn't cast much more light on the Mayan civilisation than the Reader's Digest coffee table history book my parents had on their bookshelf.

    There's a lot of savagery and no real emotional connection with any of the characters other than the "peaceful" forest tribe.

    Batman: It's a low neighborhood, full of rumpots. They're used to curious sights, which they attribute to alcoholic delusions.

    Robin: Gosh, drink is sure a filthy thing, isn't it? I'd rather be dead than unable to trust my own eyes!

  • #2
    I believe it's called 'propaganda' devilchicken. I am apalled at the message conveyed by this film ...

    The Sober Racism of Mel Gibson's Apocalypto
    By Liza Grandia

    Film critics appear split on how to handle Mel Gibson's newest production, Apocalypto. A few refuse to patronize the film in symbolic protest of Gibson's drunken rants over the summer. Others suggest we should temporarily suspend judgment about Gibson's anti-Semitism and judge this action film on its own merits.

    Remarkably, none of the critics seem to be asking whether Mel Gibson has produced a film any less racist than his summer tirades about Jews. Hollywood seems willing to admonish Gibson for certain kinds of bigotry, while oddly excusing other kinds of racism - especially if targeted at poor, brown, and indigenous peoples.

    As a cultural anthropologist who has worked for thirteen years among different Maya peoples of Mesoamerica and who speaks the Q'eqchi' Maya language fluently, I found Apocalypto to be deeply racist. The Maya in the film bore no resemblance to the hardworking farmers, teachers, lawyers, doctors, businessmen and women of Maya descent that I know personally and consider among my closest friends.

    I fear the repercussions Apocalypto will have on contemporary Maya people who continue to struggle for survival and political governments under discriminatory governments that consider them stupid, backward, and uncivilized for wanting to maintain their customs and language. Gibson's slanderous film reinforces the same stereotypes that have facilitated the genocide of Maya peoples and the plunder of their lands starting with the Spanish invasion of 1492 and continuing through the Guatemalan civil war to the present.

    Rather than quibble about Apocalypto's many historical and archaeological inaccuracies as other academic critics have done, I focus here on four racist messages the film sends to audiences:

    1. Native Americans are all interchangeable. Many critics have offered facile praise to Gibson for having filmed his bloody epic in a contemporary Maya language and employed various Native American actors. Gibson has boasted to the press how relatively cheap it was to make the film because he had pay so little to these actors and his Mexican crew. To me, these actors didn't look or sound Maya at all. Their Yucatec diction was terrible and lacked the real lyric cadence of Maya languages. If someone exploited local labor to make a cheap film about gang-violence in Brooklyn and employed heavily-accented Australian and British actors, would critics still praise it as "authentic" simply because the actors are speaking English?

    2. Mesoamerican cultures are all the same. While keeping some of the archaeological details accurate for "authenticity," Gibson then jumbles together mass Aztec sacrifices with Maya rituals, as if they were the same. Certainly at the height of classic Maya civilization, the ruling classes made occasional human sacrifices to their gods, but nothing on the Holocaust-level scale that Gibson portrays in Apocalypto with fields of rotting, decapitated corpses that his hero, Jaguar Paw stumbles across as he attempts to escape his own execution in the city. With the advice of archaeologist Richard Hansen, Gibson seems to have researched anything the Maya might have done badly over a thousand year history and crammed it all into a few horrific days. How would the gringos look if we made a film that lumped together within one week the torture at the Abu Ghraib and Guatanamo prisons, the Tuskegee experiments, KKK lynchings, the battle at Wounded Knee, Japanese internment camps, the Trail of Tears, the Salem witch hunts, Texas death row executions, the Rodney King police beatings, the slaughter upon the Gettysburg battlefield, and the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki - and made this look like a definitive statement on U.S. culture?

    3. Indigenous people should remain noble savages, since attempts to build cities and more complex political organization will bring their inevitable demise. Gibson purportedly wanted to make a statement about the decay of empires in this film. However, the only clear message I could take away was that indigenous people should have remained friendly forest hunter-gatherers and never have attempted to build their own civilization. Ignoring the fact by the time of the Spanish invasion, all Maya peoples had been either urbanized or sedentary agriculturalists for hundreds of years and maintained complex trade networks, Gibson nevertheless depicts his hero's tribe as crude but happy rainforest peoples living in isolation, blissfully ignorant of the corrupt cities neighboring them. He contrasts these noble forest savages with evil city dwellers such as slave traders, despotic politicians, psychotic priests, and sadistic head-hunters all living amidst rotting sewage, filth, disease, and general misery. Real Maya cities were places with sophisticated water and sanitation systems, great libraries, and extraordinary artwork and architecture. If Gibson wanted to make a statement about the consequences of environmental destruction, as he has claimed to the press, why not produce a film about corporate excesses at Love Canal or Three Mile Island instead of mucking up the historical reputation of the ancient Maya?

    4. The Spanish arrive as if to save the Maya from themselves. After enduring two hours of horrific violence, in the last minutes of the film, we witness the miraculous rescue of the film's hero Jaguar Paw from his stalkers by the appearance of Spanish galleons off the coast. This short, final scene shows dour Spaniards approaching the mainland in boats bearing Christian crosses across still water. After forcing his audience to endure two hours of horrific violence, Gibson uses this placid scene allow the movie-goer a sigh of relief in the hopes that these European Civilizers have arrived to make order out of the Maya mayhem. By ending his film there, Gibson ignores the far greater genocide to befall the Maya. In fact, within a hundred years of conquest, the Spanish were responsible for killing between 90 and 95 percent of the Maya population through disease, warfare, starvation, and enslavement.

    To stereotype and slander ancient Maya civilization and to imply that the impending holocaust of Maya peoples by the Spanish is a "new beginning" shows how truly racist Gibson really is-whether drunk or sober.

    Liza Grandia is a cultural anthropologist who has worked with Maya peoples in Guatemala and Belize since 1993 and who speaks Q'eqchi' Maya fluently. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University, writing a book called "Unsettling" about the repeated land dispossessions and enclosures of the Q'eqchi'.
    Last edited by Athenys; 12-22-2006, 09:36 AM.

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    • #3
      Well, I saw the movie, and I can't agree much with the posted quote. First off, it was a fictional movie, not a documentary. Now, I will say that I did not think that it was a very good movie. I turned to my buddy a couple times and asked "Is there a point to this?"

      I will say that I did not see the end a message that Christianity has come to save the day and the people. If you look at the quote at the beginning of the movie, to me the end of the film is a critique about a decandent civilization and their conquest is inevitible because of their decandency.

      Again, I didn't think it was a very good movie. Chases, revenge, true love, Rambo. Just nothing original from the opening to the end, if you ask me.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Patrick
        to me the end of the film is a critique about a decandent civilization and their conquest is inevitible because of their decandency.
        But the point is that Mayans were not decadent, although Gibson portrays them as such.

        I've not seen the film, but I can't agree with you about the 'it's only fictional' line. Certainly in the UK it is being marketed as a historical epic. This means that it is making claims to an accuracy that this anthropologist says that it does not have.

        Of course, over here, we're used to this sort of thing from Mel after the nonsense that was The Patriot...

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        • #5
          Originally posted by johneffay
          I've not seen the film, but I can't agree with you about the 'it's only fictional' line. Certainly in the UK it is being marketed as a historical epic. This means that it is making claims to an accuracy that this anthropologist says that it does not have.

          Of course, over here, we're used to this sort of thing from Mel after the nonsense that was The Patriot...
          Well quite; the phrases "historical accuracy" and "Mel Gibson" don't exactly make for comfortable bedfellows.
          _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
          _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
          _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
          _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Athenys
            I believe it's called 'propaganda' devilchicken. I am apalled at the message conveyed by this film ...
            To be fair, is there really anything unique about this movie that isn't true of countless Hollywood historical epics?
            Batman: It's a low neighborhood, full of rumpots. They're used to curious sights, which they attribute to alcoholic delusions.

            Robin: Gosh, drink is sure a filthy thing, isn't it? I'd rather be dead than unable to trust my own eyes!

            Comment


            • #7
              Most "historical" epics or anything but historical. I thought The Patriot was garbage, at least what I remember of it. Actually, I don't remember anything about the movie just my reaction to it. Now, I did love Braveheart, but that is, of course, far from being historical.

              I don't claim to know anything about the historicity of Apacolypto. And, I'm sure that there if little true history there. Just not a very good movie, in my opinion.

              "But the point is that Mayans were not decadent, although Gibson portrays them as such.
              I've not seen the film, but I can't agree with you about the 'it's only fictional' line."

              I'm not saying that Gibson was right or wrong with the movie, just that that is what my take away was from it: the fall of empires.
              Last edited by Patrick; 12-23-2006, 06:19 PM.

              Comment


              • #8
                I think what is so problematic is that it comes along unnecessarily weighty. If it weren't a Mel Gibson movie it would be a lot easier to shrug away, this way it is charged up with being a Gibson movie, whatever that signals, really.

                Away from Gibson and Hollywood, in truth the Mayans ARE a problem for many, (a fascinating problem) because they were on the one hand a very refined High Culture surpassing all other cultures of the hemisphere and still are a mystery in many aspects, and on the other hand, yes, they were very cruel in some of their practices and in the means to conquer. And this truth is very hard to stomach if you have hitherto idealised the Mayans. What to do with this forceful ambivalence? You just have to admire them, but we are all programmed (Thank God) to despise their incredible cruelty.
                Ask me as a German how I cope with the legacy of belonging to a culture that frequently has surpassed its neighbours in cultural, scientific and philosophical achievements, but also brought forth some of the vilest butchers one can think of! (And I think of it nearly daily!)
                I think, without siding with Gibson, what is so difficult to accept is that these icons of Pre-Spanish culture and wisdom in the Americas were, at certain defined moments, terrible monsters.
                The other question is: do I have to go watch such a movie?
                Google ergo sum

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                • #9
                  Well in this movie you don't find out anything that you didn't already think you knew about the Maya. But I did read somewhere that Gibsons depiction amalgamates several of the meso-american civilisations, divided by time and indeed, by location.

                  That's slightly problematic - but I think its more specific of the Hollywood tendency to rewrite history rather than any specific agenda on Gibson's part.

                  The Patriot was garbage however.
                  Batman: It's a low neighborhood, full of rumpots. They're used to curious sights, which they attribute to alcoholic delusions.

                  Robin: Gosh, drink is sure a filthy thing, isn't it? I'd rather be dead than unable to trust my own eyes!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    It's obviously a subject that's right up Gibson's alley...

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Actually its a little surprising that Hollywood left the meso-american civilizations relatively untouched over the past decades.

                      Unfortunately it did require a Cecil B De Mille type to "bring their story to the screen".
                      Batman: It's a low neighborhood, full of rumpots. They're used to curious sights, which they attribute to alcoholic delusions.

                      Robin: Gosh, drink is sure a filthy thing, isn't it? I'd rather be dead than unable to trust my own eyes!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        -maybe this movie will bring new interest in the culture,though.

                        It would be cool if a more historical film would come out about the Mayans.

                        I have not seen this one yet, and I might wait for it to come to cable.


                        "With a deep, not-unhappy sigh, Elric prepared to do battle with an army." (Red Pearls)
                        - Michael Moorcock

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