December 19, 2006

Apocalypto actors had no conscience?

Doug George-Kanentiio:  'Apocalypto' offensive to Native historyI sometimes wonder if Native actors bother to read the scripts of the movies in which they are asked to perform.

I understand there are limited opportunities for aboriginal professionals in the film industry but there must be some projects which are so offensive to Native history and culture as cause actors of conscience to turn down roles regardless of the money or the director.

Movies such as "Apocalypto", a bad film which has some of the most grotesque images ever shoved before a stunned audience. From heads impaled on poles to hundreds of corpses rotting in a burial pit the director Mel Gibson does his worst to show Natives as so thoroughly savage that only a righteous cleansing by Christian invaders can safe them from utter depravity. If left unchallenged it will destroy whatever admiration the world may have had for indigenous peoples.


Anonymous said...

I've often wondered this myself. What affect does it have on an indigenous actor's career if he/she takes on a starring role in a controversial film like this one? (Because it certainly gives the impression, whether justly or not, that they are endorsing the project). It's a shame in a way because I like Rudy Youngblood; he seems like a promising young actor, and certainly gave a compelling performance in this film (which one has to admit, whether they like the film or are repelled by it). I hope that this will not stand as a permanent stain against him, and that he will be able to move on and do some worthwhile projects.

Rob said...

I can't blame Rudy Youngblood too much for taking the role of Jaguar Paw. For one thing, he plays one of the good Indians, the hero. For another, he may have thought he could ameliorate the worst parts. Perhaps Gibson made vague promises to that effect.

Also, it's often not clear how good or bad a movie will be even when you read the script. Remember, the director chooses what to film and the editor chooses what to keep. Gibson reported yelled "More blood!" on the set, which implies the initial script wasn't as blood-soaked as the final product.

Rob said...

An animal can be hog-like without being a member of the pig family.

As I said elsewhere, there's a middle ground between saying nothing and walking off the set. It's a fallacy to say Rudy Youngblood and crew had no alternative. But we don't know if the actors spoke up, so it's hardly worth speculating about.

Rob said...

George-Kanentiio spent most of his article criticizing the movie, not the actors' participation in it. He spent 2-3 paragraphs on the matter of the actors' participation and so have I. Hence my conclusion that it's hardly worth speculating about.

Anonymous said...

Well it is a fact that due to the fact of the existance of only duck and the chiwawa for protein, the mayans had to reach for other sources of protein(humans), and what better source than to reach to neighboring colonies to eat. Of course the people having to gather them would have to be a little hard hearted, and what civilization that built great buildings didnt use slave labour, the Shah Jahan built the taj mahal and then cut off the arms of the builders so they coudnt build another building.The egyptians didnt pay their workers above minimum and treat them the way safeway employees are treated either. MOST great civilization from the past has tales of inhuman treatement towards captives

Anonymous said...

Umm... weren't the pyramids built by noblemen and not slaves as hollywood would have you think?

Christian said...

I have to disagree with two of the threads here.

First, I thought that it is currently widely accepted that Aztecs made human sacrifices, often in great numbers, as part of their religious ceremonies. Some sources claim that they sacrificed up to 80,000 people in four days while consecrating the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan [Hanson, Victor Davis (2000), Carnage and Culture. ISBN 0-385-72038-6]. That's 14 deaths per minute.

Now, I understand that it's uncomfortable to see that or references to it in an action film, especially if you have some Native American heritage, but I personally see no problem with it. Europeans, Africans, Asians and Americans - people of all races - have passed through periods of dark history, that a modern mindset can barely comprehend.

To me, it would seem that we should face that, try to understand why such things happened, decide that we do not wish to return there and act accordingly.

The second thread I disagree with is the implication that the film depicts the Christians as saviours of the barbarians.

Now, perhaps this was Gibson's intent, but I'm not so sure. The film's tagline of "No-one can outrun his destiny" to me suggests that the bigger picture is the almost utter destruction of the Aztec civilisation by the invaders.

I could be wrong, but the scenes of smallpox-decimated villages hint at this. Smallpox spread through the Americas ahead of the Conquistadores and killed of 90-95% of the natives before they ever started fighting [Diamond, Jared (1999), Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. ISBN 0-393-31755-2]. The invaders were destroyers, not saviours.

Anyway, that's my tuppence worth. I hope it doesn't offend anyone!

Rob said...

The Aztecs aren't the Maya. Apocalypto depicted the Maya civilization, not the Aztec civilization. If it had depicted the Aztec civilization, the critiques would've been different.

I've read Guns, Germs, and Steel and written about it. Follow the link for details.

Re "The invaders were destroyers, not saviours": I addressed this when I wrote

Ardren's interpretation is "The end is near and the savior has come." Your interpretation is "The end is near and things are about to get worse." I'm not sure these messages are inconsistent. "The end is near and the 'savior' has come. Things are about to get worse (from the Maya perspective) or better (from the Euro-Christian perspective)."

I addressed the disease issue in Genocide by Any Other Name.... For instance, I wrote, "Note that the European slave-raiding began before the epidemics decimated whole tribes. So the Europeans didn't just wipe out the Indians with disease, then take a few stragglers into captivity. Their policy was to kill and enslave people before disease became a factor."

Anonymous said...

I am of Central American Decent - and I loved the movie.

If anyone would have a problem with it it would be me.

yes there was gore and a lot of brutality - remember Spartacus (1960's film with Kirk Douglas)? That movie showed heads on spears as well.

The truth of the matter is that Mel Gibson depicted the actions of the different tribes in the region.

I enjoyed Tiger Paws performance and his determination to get back to his family, and the fact that at the end of the movie it shows that he did not fall into the hands of the Spaniards but opted to follow his heart and head to the hills within the forrest. Acutally - that could have saved all the Natives if they had stayed within their world and not be so curious and come down to greet and meet their captors. But that's another movie.

The story line was great. It had a story and that showed human spirit.
kuddos to Mel!!

Anonymous said...

This movie depicted the complex layers of Mayan lives in that era.
Like any other period in time, regardless of ethnicithy, it could be brutal at times.

It is a FACT that mass sacrifices were made, that slaves existed.
It is also factual that there were Mayans who feared and loathed this brutal regime so much that some aided the invaders out of desperation to overthrow it/them.

This movie also showed a gentle, loving side to the Mayans as well. The love between Father/Son;Husband/Wife and close comaradierie between good friends.It is also clear that the movie depicted that tribal Mayans valued their close connection to the land and it was to be looked after so that future generations could live and hunt on it.

The last scene imo, was Jaguar Paw looking at the incoming ships as not being anything good as he chose to guide his family deep into the forests to seek a new beginning.

The innuendo that this movie was racist or showed Indian/Indigenous people in poor light is WRONG.