I haven’t seen Apocalypto yet, but there has been a lot of buzz on the blogosphere, so I thought I’d present some of the highlights.
Benjamin Zimmer at Language Log says:
Originally the buzz surrounding the film was mostly about Gibson’s choice to shoot the entire film in Mexico with local actors speaking Yucatec Maya. Now, of course, observers are more interested in speculating if the film will be dead-on-arrival at the box office thanks to Mel’s notorious anti-Semitic rant and DUI arrest last July. But linguistic issues are still getting some attention in the Apocalypto coverage, for instance in this Associated Press article describing the mixture of excitement and ambivalence among the Yucatec Maya community about a major Hollywood movie filmed in their indigenous language.
He then goes on to discuss the “foreboding Greek title,” after which he links to this post by John Lawler:
The movie is a sort of stew with 900 years of MesoAmerican history and mythology slopped in, overly seasoned with special effects, and stirred vigorously. If Mel Gibson had made the Passion to the same formula, Jesus would have escaped from the cross, swum the Mediterranean, and wound up assassinating Julius Caesar and Hitler.
… Bottom line: Read the Popol Vuh and skip the movie.
He, in turn, links to this article in Salon “by a Maya scholar [who] says roughly the same thing — it’s historically inaccurate and gets the culture totally wrong.”
Before anyone thinks I have forgotten my Metamucil this morning, I am not a compulsively politically correct type who sees the Maya as the epitome of goodness and light. I know the Maya practiced brutal violence upon one another, and I have studied child sacrifice during the Classic period. But in “Apocalypto,” no mention is made of the achievements in science and art, the profound spirituality and connection to agricultural cycles, or the engineering feats of Maya cities. Instead, 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 deserve, in fact they needed, rescue. This same idea was used for 500 years to justify the subjugation of Maya people and it has been thoroughly deconstructed and rejected by Maya intellectuals and community leaders throughout the Maya area today. In fact, Maya intellectuals have demonstrated convincingly that such ideas were manipulated by the Guatemalan army to justify the genocidal civil war of the 1970-1990s. To see this same trope about who indigenous people were (and are today?) used as the basis for entertainment (and I use the term loosely) is truly embarrassing. How can we continue to produce such one-sided and clearly exploitative messages about the indigenous people of the New World?
But Kambiz Kamrani says “Who even cares?” its just a good movie, eat some popcorn and enjoy yourself …
Saving the best for last, the award goes to Will at Nomadic Thoughts who posted this amazing Saturday Night Live spoof:
Like the owners of the resort hotels that line the beautiful beaches of Cancún and Cozumel, Mel Gibson cast no Maya to work on his project, except in the most minor roles. Maya nationalists think the hotels and tourist packages that use the word “Maya” or “Mayaland” (a translation of Mayab) should pay for what they appropriate for their own use. The Maya patrimony, they say, is neither gold nor silver nor vast stretches of rich farmland; they have only their history, their culture, themselves. Like the hotel owners who bring strangers to the Yucatán to do everything but labor in the laundries and maintain the grounds, Gibson has brought in strangers to take the good parts from the Maya.