Looking to Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto, set to open on Friday, as a source of historical accuracy regarding Maya culture makes as much sense as looking to this book for information about the Aztecs. Call me a judgemental, oversensitive woman of color (really, it wouldn’t be the first time) but I don’t need to see the movie to have a bad gut reaction, you know what I’m talking about Latinos, that something here just ain’t right. I sure am not gonna drop $10 plus to prove myself right and at least one group of indigenous activists in Guatemala, where a large population of Maya still live agrees.
“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,” said Ignacio Ochoa, director of the Nahual Foundation that promotes Mayan culture.
And here lies a big part of the problem. What happens when a person of privilege, a white male Hollywood type, makes a film about a people who still exist? It’s not as if the film is about a culture that is dead. In fact the Maya people are a people who have been struggling to survive and resist.
More than half of Guatemala’s population is descended from the original Maya. They face frequent discrimination and most live in poverty with little access to education and social services.
Over 200,000 people, mostly Mayan, were killed during Guatemala’s 36-year civil war that ended a decade ago. Some rights groups say the army tried to wipe out the Maya.
So why are some Latino and Indigenous people praising Mel and the film? In my opinion because he is throwing the community crumbs. People of color are so deprived of positive images of ourselves in film that any portrayal is seen as a cause for celebration. It doesn’t matter if the Indigenous lead is of the same culture being portrayed. Hey at least he’s some sort of native? No?
The entire script is spoken in Yucatec Maya and the star is a Native American dancer named Rudy Youngblood. Gibson’s use of indigenous actors has won praise from Latino and Native American groups in the United States
.I wonder how much the Mayan extras were payed, or if they were played like so many of the extras were played like people say went down in the filming of Borat?And we all know that as long as a film is using a native language it has to be “authentic” no?
What’s next, Michael Richards making a film about slavery in the U.S.? Count Apocalypto as my big non-pick for the weekend.
Via / ABC News
Image Via / Filmstarts.de