June 25, 2011

Latin American Native children's films

Here's an impressively long list of movies, cartoons, and videos. The annotations are excellent, and the reviewer isn't afraid to say what's good or bad. Based on the few items I've seen, you can trust the reviewer's opinion.

Below are some capsule reviews of movies you may be familiar with:

Cartoons and Kids' Movies featuring Indians of Central and South AmericaThe Emperor's New Groove  [four arrows]

This entertaining comedy could have taken place anywhere, and at any time--or at least, wherever there is a bratty emperor threatening to demolish peasant lands to build a royal swimming pool. John Goodman is the peasant Pacha who befriends the emperor (David Spade) who has been turned into a llama. The film shows very little of Incan culture except for the wonderful backgrounds, which creatively play upon motifs of Incan art and architecture. Eartha Kitt and Patrick Warburton also provide voices, and Sting wrote an original song for this film, which came out the same year as the very similar The Road to El Dorado. The sequel, Kronk's New Groove (2005), besides showing the usual decline in quality you'd expect from a sequel, sheds the Incan theme altogether--it could pass for an episode of The Flintstones.

The Road to El Dorado  [three arrows]

Tulio and Miguel are a couple of Spanish con artists (played by Kevin Klein and Kenneth Branaugh) who flee from the police by jumping on a boat which takes them to the New World. There they try to convince the locals that they are gods, aided by the curvaceous theif Chel (Rosie Perez). Taking advantage of tensions between the emperor (Edward James Olmos) and the religious leader (Armand Assante), the two rogues manage to put an end to human sacrifice while also scoring a treasure of gold. The humor works principally through an annoyingly contemporary sarcasm, expressed through Tulio and Miguel's cliche buddy-banter. The voices, facial expressions, and gestures are all reproduced with slavish accuracy to 1990s pop culture, leaving little screentime for Mayan culture. However, the background artwork sumptuous--the architecture, artifacts, jungles, and costumes are all so beautiful that no one should mind the historical inaccuracies. And the special effects (if that is the right term when discussing animation) used for the magic sequences are also impressive. This film came out the same year as Disney's The Emperor's New Groove. Although Disney's Incan cartoon is funnier, Dreamwork's Mayan adventure sports better artwork, and will probably appeal more to fans of Indian culture.

Machu Picchu Post  [five arrows]

A boy and his llama wait for the postal airplane to arrive in Machu Picchu. When the airplane wanders into a cloud, it comes under the control of the boy's imagination. A French production, but without words. Available on its own website or on Youtube.
Comment:  Many of these are available online. Others are on DVD in Spanish or English. Check them out if you have a chance.

For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies and Native Videos and Cartoons.

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