The movie 10,000 B.C. is instructive for what it says about Hollywood's perceptions of indigenous people. Let's go through the mistakes and stereotypes to compare Hollywood's version of indigenous culture and history with the real thing.
But note: When I say "mistakes," I'm not talking about the anachronistic inaccuracies. E.g., the presence of domesticated horses, metal, sailboats, and pyramids in 10,000 B.C. Many critics noted these "mistakes," but they're relatively easy to explain.
Many critics also slammed the movie's rapidly changing geography, but it's possible to explain that too. The tribesmen start in snow-covered peaks--perhaps the Caucasus Mountains between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. They pass through what looks like a rain forest--which may be the "lush forests of what is today Southern Iraq/Kuwait--the fabled Fertile Crescent." They cross the Sinai Peninsula and end up on the Nile River.
No, I'm talking about more subtle mistakes and stereotypes. These have the cumulative effect of making indigenous people seem much more primitive and superstitious than they really were. To Hollywood, these people are basically ape-men with good plastic surgeons.
Some like it cold
The Yagahl tribe lives on a mountain. The surrounding peaks are covered in snow, showing how cold it is. But the Yagahl huts are on top of a rise, exposing them to wind, storms, and freezing temperatures. This is silly; no tribe would choose to live in the coldest spot in the region.
The tribesmen have braided and dreadlocked hair, mud and paint on their faces, and dark makeup around their eyes. This serves to make them look more exotic and otherworldly--i.e., primitive. If they didn't have these excesses, they'd look almost modern.
During the day, the men often go bare-chested. Even though it's sunny, this is still a mountaintop with snow-covered peaks nearby. They should be wearing shirts if not coats--but again, being half-naked makes them look more primitive.
The lady Evolet
Evolet the orphan girl arrives to fulfill a prophecy about bringing life to the tribe. Her name is unnaturally soft- and French-sounding, reminiscent of the first woman Eve. It's obviously a gimmick to make her seem more feminine.
Because of Evolet's blue eyes, the tribe knows she's different, special, anointed. Couldn't she have had a birthmark or a wart on her nose? No, it has to be the Anglo epitome of beauty to mark her as the tribe's savior.
The rest of the tribe looks suitably Eurasian. A couple of the actors have Chinese or Asian surnames; one is Maori. But Evolet is played by Camilla Belle. Despite having a Brazilian father, she looks like Lindsay Lohan. She's totally out of place among the others--a typical Hollywood starlet playing a typical Indian-style princess.
Our hero D'Leh tells Evolet he's discovered a star that behaves strangely--i.e., a planet. In reality, most indigenous tribes knew about the planets. They marked the seasons by them. They probably did this for tens or hundreds of thousands of years before 10,000 BC. So portraying D'Leh's observation as if it were brand-new makes tribal people look ignorant.
The mighty poor hunters
Like Indian buffalo hunters, the Yagahl hunters crawl amid a herd of mammoths. Then they spring up, shout, and wave their arms to goad the beasts. This is more foolhardy with mammoths than it is with buffalo, since the animals can crush the hunters with one misstep.
The hunters stampede the mammoths through a narrow pass where they try to catch one in a net. Considering how much work it would take to make a large net, this seems inefficient. Why not spear the passing mammoths or drop boulders on them? Why not herd them into a cul-de-sac and then spear them or drop boulders on them?
For that matter, why not drive them off a cliff as the Indians did with the buffalo? These tribesmen take more risks and hunt less efficiently than their Paleo-Indian counterparts in North America. They're a white man's fantasy of a tribe, not an anthropologically accurate tribe.
For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.
Below: Those lips, those eyes! "Leave me alone, you big hairy paparazzi. I have a photo shoot tomorrow and I need my beauty sleep."