In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_magnificent_seven_ver3

The Magnificent Seven

Rarely have so many charismatic actors been used in a film that feels quite as soulless as Antoine Fuqua’s update of The Magnificent Seven.

Thumb_age_of_shadows

The Age of Shadows

At 140 minutes, Kim sometimes loses the rhythm of his spy thriller, but he's such a confident filmmaker—and his leading man such a magnetic presence—that…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Blog Archives

When is a bloody heart not just a bloody heart?

apoc.jpg

I don't think much of Mel Gibson's ultra-literalist directorial sensibility (my main problem with "The Passion of the Christ" is that it failed to engage on any symbolic, religious or mythological level), but this piece in the New York Times last week, by archaeologist Craig Childs, piqued my interest in seeing "Apocalypto." Childs sees it as a truer reflection of the historically violent -- and symbolically violent -- nature of Native American tribal life than the popular stereotype of American Indians as passive, stoic, peace-loving peoples. (And that stereotype developed, in part, as a corrective response to the savage portrayals of "Injuns" in so many American movie westerns).

Writes Childs (author of the forthcoming book, “House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization Across the American Southwest”):

Being told by screenwriters and archaeologists that their ancestors engaged in death cults tends to make many Native Americans uneasy. In Arizona, Hopi elders turn their eyes to the ground when they hear about their own past stained with overt brutality. The name Hopi means people of peace, which is what they strive to be. Meanwhile, excavators keep digging up evidence of cannibalism and ritualized violence among their ancestors.

How do we rectify the age-old perception of noble and peaceful native America with the reality that at times violence was coordinated on a scale never before witnessed by humanity? The answer is simple. We don’t.

Prior to 1492 it was a complex cultural landscape with civilization ebbing and flowing, the spaces in between traversed by ancient lineages of hunters and gatherers. To the religious core of pre-Columbian Mayans, a beating heart ripped from someone’s chest was a thing of supreme sacredness and not prosaic violence.

If “Apocalypto” has a fault, it is not with its brutality, but with us in the audience who cringe, thinking the Mayans little more than a barbaric people. The fault lies in our misunderstanding of a complicated history, thinking we can lump a whole civilization into a single response and walk out of the movie saying, “That was disgusting.”

Popular Blog Posts

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

What are Your Favorite "Star Trek" Moments?

Writers at RogerEbert.com share their favorite "Star Trek" moments in honor of the original TV series' 50th anniversary.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus