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Sure, Apocolypto is a hit … but how does it play in Tulúm?

16 January 2007

Today’s Mexico City Herald:

Mayas´ opinions on ´Apocalypto´ vary widely
Wire services
El UniversalMartes 16 de enero de 2007

Mayas had mixed reactions to Mel Gibson´s “Apocalypto” prior to Monday´s screening of the movie in Mexico City after viewing bootleg copies of the bloody, pre-Columbian epic set in a Mexican jungle
Mayas had mixed reactions to Mel Gibson´s “Apocalypto” prior to Monday´s screening of the movie in Mexico City after viewing bootleg copies of the bloody, pre-Columbian epic set in a Mexican jungle.In a region where pirated DVDs are often available on street corners before movies even open, some Mayas said the film misrepresents their ancient culture as violent and bloodthirsty.Others appreciated Gibson´s attempt to make the first feature-length film entirely in the Yucatec Maya language, which is still spoken by some 800,000 Mexicans whose ancestors ruled an empire for centuries, from about 250 until the Spanish conquest of the 1520s. By the time the Spanish arrived, however, the Maya civilization was in a state of decline.

“For the most part, you could understand everything,” said Maya activist Amadeo Cool May, who in particular praised the film´s prophetic speech by a child about the impending collapse of the Indian city-state. “That was really Maya. Her monologue was well done.”

Cool May added that as he sees it, “the intention (of the film) isn´t to talk about the culture, but rather to exploit the plot of a hero versus a villain.”

Bartolomé Alonzo Caamal, who has taught Maya in Yucatan schools for four decades, said he was pleased the movie had been made and called it “a way to focus on the importance of Mayan culture.”

But he said “it focused too much on the violent aspects … like slavery or human sacrifice” instead of the Maya´s accomplishments in writing, mathematics and calendars. Some of the actors didn´t speak Maya well, he added.

Alonzo Caamal did like the controversial final scene, in which the Spaniards who eventually conquered and exploited the Maya appear and, by pure chance, save the life of the main character.

The protagonist and his family decide not to join the Spaniards, instead taking refuge in the jungle. “They decide to take their own path, and that leaves us with a sense of hope,” Alonzo Caamal said.

Others were less charitable.

“The level of violence in the film could lead some to say the Mayas were a violent people who could only be saved by the arrival of the Spaniards, when history shows it was quite the opposite,” said Juan Tiney of Guatemala´s Indian and Farmer Coordinating Council.

Guatemala has a large Maya Indian population whose languages differ from the one used in the movie. Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú, a Guatemalan Quiche Indian, says she will not even bother to see it.

“For my mental health, I don´t watch violent movies, because we´ve already suffered enough violence in Guatemala,” she said.

Controversy over his films is nothing new for Gibson, whose “The Passion of the Christ” (2004) was criticized for its graphic violence. Gibson planned to attend a private screening of “Apocalypto” in Mexico City late Monday, according to his publicist Alan Nierob.

Gibson employed many Mayas in the filming of the movie, and has said he wanted to make the Mayan language “cool” again and encourage young people “to speak it with pride.”

© 2007 Copyright El Universal-El Universal Online

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