Friday, December 08, 2006

A few brief (unfortunate) notes on "Apocalypto"

I have no intention of seeing Mel Gibson's Apocalypto. As an historian of Latin America who has studied a fair bit about indigenous peoples in Latin America (including the Maya), I'm sure I'd only be outraged at the inaccuracy. I'd hoped to completely ignore the film. However, I (unfortunately) have two comments.

First (and related to the historical-(in)accuracy issue), is it any surprise that Gibson maybe misrepresented the Mayas? According to the movie-industry "news" at, "some descendants of the Maya tribes depicted in Mel Gibson's Apocalypto have denounced the movie as racist and not representative of their ancient culture. In an interview with Reuters, Ignacio Ochoa, director of the Nahual Foundation, said, "Gibson replays, in glorious big budget Technicolor, an offensive and racist notion that Maya people were brutal to one another long before the arrival of Europeans and thus they deserved, in fact, needed, rescue." Lucio Yaxon, described by Reuters as a 23-year-old Mayan human rights activist, added, "Basically, the director is saying the Mayans are savages."" Is this that surprising from a guy who not only made a movie about Jesus that was originally not-insignificantly anti-Semitic, but then went on an anti-Semitic tirade this summer?

Second (and more to the point)..."Braveheart;" "The Passion;" and now, "Apocalypto," which is apparently extremly violent and, according to the NY Times's A.O. Scott, "not much else in the way of bodily torment has been left to the imagination" in the film. Does Gibson know how to do anything but extreme gore? It's almost like a joke now - "what other time period in a different geographic location can I provide images of extreme gore?"

Whatever happened to the subtle use of violence unseen to increase suspense?