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Apocalypto trailer ( you tube - here )
Apocalypto is a 2006 film, set in the declining period of the Maya civilization, depicting the journey of a Mesoamerican tribesman who must escape human sacrifice and rescue his family after the capture and destruction of his village.
Directed by Mel Gibson. Written by Mel Gibson and Farhad Safinia.
Its Yucatec Maya dialogue is accompanied by subtitles. READ MORE
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Pictures of Apocalypto - full cast here - Pictures of Zero Wolf - Raoul Trujillo here - Pictures of Jaguar Paw - Rudy Youngblood here - Pictures of Middle Eye - Gerardo Teracena here - Pictures of Snake Ink - Rodolfo Palacios here - Pictures of Buzzard Hook - Ammel Rodrigo here - Pictures of Ricardo Diaz Mendoza - Cut Rock here - Pictures of Ariel Galvan - Hanging Moss here - Pictures of Bernardo Juarez - Drunkards Four here - Pictures of Richard Can - Ten Peccary here
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Curiosity: How are the 10 Holcanes killed?
1) Cut Rock, son of Zero Wolf, was the finisher in the "killing games". He was killed by Jaguar Paw with the arrow head.
2) Speaking Wind was mauled by the jaguar.
3) Drunkards Four was the snake bite victim.
4) Snake Ink was stabbed by Zero Wolf prior to the waterfall jump.
5) Buzzard Hook smacked his head on the rock during the waterfall jump
6) Hanging Moss was darted by Jaguar Paw (was hit 3 times)
7) Middle Eye was clubbed by Jaguar Paw.
8) Zero Wolf was killed by the tapir trap.
9 & 10) Monkey Jaw and Ten Peccary are still alive at the beach.
10 THINGS YOU PROBABLY DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT APOCALYPTO
1. MEL GIBSON MADE A VERY FAST CAMEOThe first teaser trailer for Apocalypto, made before principal photography of the movie itself, includes a hidden single-frame image of a heavily bearded Gibson standing next to a group of Mayan actors with a cigarette in his mouth. (video here)
2. APOCALYPTO ALSO FOUND WALDOGibson wasn’t the only brief cameo. The director humorously—and morbidly—inserted a single frame of a man dressed as Waldo from Where’s Waldo into the scene where Jaguar Paw stumbles into a pile of dead bodies after the ritual sacrifice scene. (video here)
3. GIBSON GOT EXPERT HELPThough the film exercises some dramatic license, Gibson hired Dr. Richard D. Hansen, Assistant Professor at Idaho State University and a specialist on Mayan culture, as a consultant to ensure a level of historical accuracy.
4. FINDING THE PERFECT JUNGLE WAS TOUGHThe filmmakers originally looked into shooting in Guatemala and Costa Rica, but those countries’ jungles were too dense for a movie production. Instead, all filming took place in Mexico. The jungle scenes were shot just outside of the city of Catemaco and the pyramid city set was built in Veracruz.
5. THE ACTORS HAD HOMEWORKGibson wanted to cast non-actors for each role, which meant the casting process eventually stretched across three continents. Many of the actors then had to learn Yucatec Maya for the film.
6. SOME MEMBERS OF THE CAST WERE VERY INEXPERIENCED WHEN IT CAME TO FILM Maria Isidra Hoil, who played the diseased Oracle Girl, had never seen a movie before she was cast.
7. THE ACTOR WHO PLAYED JAGUAR PAW ISN’T MAYANRudy Youngblood is a Native American of Cree, Comanche, and Yaqui descent.
8. GIBSON WENT TO THE SOURCE FOR THE SCREENPLAYFor a foundation to their story, Gibson and co-screenwriter Farhad Safinia used Spanish colonial eyewitness accounts from the period and certain mythological aspects from the Popol Vuh, a sacred Mayan text that tells the creation story and epic mythological histories of Mayan culture.
9. CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS SNEAKS IN AT THE ENDThough unnamed in the movie, the Europeans at the end of the film are led by Christopher Columbus, who made first contact with Mayan cultures in 1502. Production Designer Tom Sanders played the conquistador, while the Franciscan Friar was the film’s weapons armorer Simon Atherton.
10. SPIKE LEE THINKS IT’S ESSENTIALLee included Apocalypto on his “Essential Film List” that he gives to his NYU graduate film students each year.
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT APOCALYPTO?
"There's still a lot of mystery to the Mayan culture, but when all is said and done, it's just the backdrop to what I'm doing -- creating an action adventure of mythic proportions."
"A story about a man and his woman, his child and his father, his community. This man is put in an incredibly heightened, stressful situation ... has to overcome tremendous obstacles."
"It's set before the Conquest, so there are no European faces, and we are using mostly indigenous people and actors from Mexico City," and maybe Mel Gibson´s fingernail ("If I was in it, it would wreck everything.")
"The greek word APOCALYPTO just expresses so well that I want to convey. I think it's just a universal word. In order for something to begin, something has to end. All of those elements are involved. But it's not a big doomsday picture or anything like that."
"It doesn't bode well to say too much about what you're doing."
Los Tustlas, San Andrés, Catemaco and Nanciyaga
The mayan tongue of Yucateco. "My hope is that the movie makes this language cool again and that they [indigenous people] speak it with pride,"
Mel Gibson and Farhad Safinia.
"A lot of it I just made up, and when I checked it out with historians and archeologists, it wasn't that far wrong,"
A wide variety of sources, including accounts by the Spanish missionaries and the Popol Vuh.
"I'm hoping that by focusing on this civilization we're able to be introspective about ourselves APOCALYPTO is kind of an anthropological journey."
Did You Know?
In accordance to pre-Hispanic Mayan culture, footwear for Apocalypto was designed to be different for every class of Mayan. The indigenous people in Apocalypto wore plaited ixtle fibre sandals called ‘Cacles', which are very similar to sandals still is worn by Nahua women in Hueyapan, Morelos.
For the waterfall jump scene, Rudy Youngblood performed his own stunt, jumping in a harness from a 15-story building in Veracruz over about 10 takes. (The shot was later digitally composited with the real waterfall.) After director Mel Gibson harassed Youngblood about the actor's initial hesitancy and fear of jumping, Youngblood got together with the stunt crew and goaded Gibson into taking a jump for himself.
Many substantial speaking roles in the film were filled by Mayan people who had never acted before.
For instance, the sick little girl who curses the hunting party as they and the captives pass right before entering the city, was played by a seven year old who lived in a dirt-floored hut in a village not unlike Jaguar Paw's.
As a teenager, Mel Gibson was actually once called 'almost' by an older boy, which was a deep insult to him. This inspired the line in the movie in which Jaguar Paw is called 'almost' by one of the headhunters.
The film is allegedly inspired by the text of the Popol Vuh (sometimes called the Maya Bible) and Spanish missionary descriptions of the Maya.
The entire prophecy spoken by the Oracle girl comes true; including being "reborn" from mud and earth; as once he escapes from the sinkhole, Jaguar Paw emerges black (like the Jaguar) turning the tables on his pursuers, becoming their hunters, and no longer the quarry.
Gibson has defined the title as "a new beginning or an unveiling – a revelation"; he says "Everything has a beginning and an end, and all civilizations have operated like that".The Greek word ( apokalupto) is in fact a verb meaning "I uncover", "disclose", or "reveal". Gibson has also said a theme of the film is the exploration of primal fears.More here
A number of animals are featured in Apocalypto, including a Baird's tapir and a black jaguar. Animatronics or puppets were employed for the scenes injurious to animals.
Apocalypto gained some passionate champions in the Hollywood community. Actor Robert Duvall called it "maybe the best movie I've seen in 25 years". Director Quentin Tarantino said, "I think it's a masterpiece. It was perhaps the best film of that year. I think it was the best artistic film of that year." Actor Edward James Olmos said, "I was totally caught off guard. It's arguably the best movie I've seen in years. I was blown away."
The film registered a wider number of viewers than Perfume and Rocky Balboa. It even displaced memorable Mexican premieres such as Titanic and Poseidon.
Mel Gibson chose a cast of actors who were from Mexico City and the Yucatán, or who were descendants of indigenous peoples of Canada and the United States. It was important for the director that "these characters have to be utterly believable as pre-Columbian Mesoamericans." Some of the youngest and oldest cast members were Maya who knew no language besides Maya and had never seen a tall building before.
Gibson filmed Apocalypto mainly in Catemaco, San Andrés Tuxtla and Paso de Ovejas in the Mexican state of Veracruz. The waterfall scene was filmed on a real waterfall called Salto de Eyipantla, located in San Andrés Tuxtla. Other filming by second-unit crews took place in El Petén, Costa Rica in Great Britain.
The publicity for the film started with a December 2005 teaser trailer that was filmed before the start of principal photography and before Rudy Youngblood was cast as Jaguar Paw. As a joke, Gibson inserted a subliminal cameo of the bearded director in a plaid shirt with a cigarette hanging from his mouth posing next to a group of dust-covered Maya.
In January 2007 it was reported that filmmaker Mel Gibson, his production company Icon Productions, and the film's distributor Buena Vista (Disney) were being sued by award-winning Mexican filmmaker, Juan Mora Catlett, who claimed that Apocalypto used scenes and plotlines from his 1991 film Retorno a Aztlán. Later it was reported that the Mexican director did not intend to pursue anything legally, his only concern being that his own work was given due recognition.
Juan Catlett claims that Gibson used scenes from his 1991 film, Return to Aztlan, in Apocalypto. The storylines basically cover the same ground, depicting the Mayan civilisation imploding in a time of great drought. Catlett alleges that Gibson asked for a copy of his film while shooting Apocalypto and that scenes from Return to Aztlan ended up in Gibson's film.
The Mayan chief ( Zero Wolf ) says, "I am walking here" as a falling tree almost hits him. Nearly that same phrase was used by Rico Ratso (Dustin Hoffman) when he's almost struck by a cab in Midnight Cowboy.
In the trailer for the film, Mel Gibson added a single frame showing himself in normal clothes with a cigarette in his mouth surrounded by a bunch of Mayan people. Gibson, it should be noted, is a perennial jokester, known for doing many practical jokes during the filming of his movies. HERE 1:46
The scene where Jaguar Paw falls into the pit of dead bodies for one frame you can catch Waldo, of Where's Waldo, just hanging out on top of some dead folks.
Many substantial speaking roles in the film were filled by Mayan people who had never acted before. For instance, the sick little girl who curses the hunting party as they and the captives pass right before entering the city, was played by a seven year old who lived in a dirt-floored hut in a village not unlike Jaguar Paw's.
The entire prophecy spoken by the Oracle girl comes true; including being "reborn" from mud and earth; as once he escapes from the sinkhole, Jaguar Paw emerges black (like the Jaguar) turning the tables on his pursuers, becoming their hunters, and no longer the quarry.
Where was Apocalypto filmed:
Outdoor: sets in La Jungla near Catemaco,Puente Nacional and Paso de Oveja, both near Cardel north of Veracruz city.
Primary outdoor closeup: La Jungla, near Nanciyagaon Laguna Catemaco, also Egypantla to be filmed early January.
Secondary outdoor scenery: Probably locations near La Antigua and Casitas, Veracruz, also possibly Campeche near Edzna or Quintana Roo. A Mexican Studio may be handling production (Churubusco)
Production schedule: projected 5 months total shoot, with the current rain
During a break in his intense activity making the last arrangements for his film "Apocalypto", Mel Gibson met with Mexican President Vicente Fox and donated US$1 million to help Mexico recover from Hurricane Stan
The teaser trailer for "Apocalypto" starts with a quote from the historian Will Durant. "A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within"
The first trailer of APOCALYPTO (December 2005) was a farce. Some of the "stars" of this trailer, directed by Mel Gibson on November 2005, never acted in the film. The trailer and its images were widely distributed and publicized. The teaser features an unknown actor named Mauricio Amuy Tenorio playing the part of Jaguar Paw. He was recast in favor of Rudy Youngblood. The logical explanation is that the premature teaser trailer was sliced together from sample shots and footage, before the official casting was finished.
Poison dart frogs are a group of small and often brightly colored frogs native to Central and South America. In the wild they are "poisonous". The difference is that poison is ingested and venom must be injected into the body. These frogs received their common name from the numerous types of poisonous alkaloids found in the skin of many species. Many poison dart frogs have brightly colored skin and are small. Its alkaloid poison prevents nerves from transmitting impulses, leaving the muscles in an inactive state of contraction.
The time frame was known as the Post-classic Maya period. While a large portion of the Mayan culture did collapse well before Europeans arrived, the Northern Mayan culture persisted until Spanish conquerors arrived. Mel Gibson commented on the DVD, that he leaned the landing scene on the fourth Christopher Columbus expedition in 1502, were Columbus actualy did land in Yucatan. The eclipse scene of the film is reminiscent of an episode during Columbus' fourth voyage; Columbus impressed local Arawaks in what is now Jamaica by predicting a lunar eclipse.
The Tapir (Scooter) became Gibson´s protégé. He presently lives in a Zoo (León, Mexico). Although tapirs were once widespread, only four species endured into the modern world: three in Central America and the warmer parts of South America, and one in Southeast Asia.
Meat is not often eaten by the Maya In ancient times there were few native animals that were appropriate for livestock. They would keep small, hairless dogs as pets and also to eat, as well as turkeys. Like most indigenous peoples of the Americas, the men hunted for game, such as birds, rabbits and deer. There were also monkeys and jaguars, but there is no indication that they were eaten. Some ancient paintings show Maya hunters using a blow gun and in their creation story the hero twins kill a giant bird with a blow gun. Lacandon Maya today use bows and arrows, but there is no indication of them in their ancient art, but spears ands knives are shown. These were tipped with sharpened stone, flint or obsidian, as the ancient Maya did not forge metal. Today the machete is a tool every Maya man uses with great skill. "www.jaguar-sun.com"
Movie ERRORS here
Jaguar Paw: I am Jaguar Paw. This is my forest. And I am not afraid.
I am Jaguar Paw, son of Flint Sky. My Father hunted this forest before me. My name is Jaguar Paw. I am a hunter. This is my forest. And my sons will hunt it with their sons after I am gone.
Resting fathers, fly me your strength.
Old Story Teller Dream:
And a Man sat alone, drenched deep in sadness.
And all the animals drew near to him and said, "We do not like to see you so sad.
Ask us for whatever you wish and you shall have it."
The Man said, "I want to have good sight." The vulture replied, "You shall have mine."
The Man said, "I want to be strong."
The jaguar said, "You shall be strong like me."
Then the Man said, "I long to know the secrets of the earth."
The serpent replied, "I will show them to you." And so it went with all the animals.
And when the Man had all the gifts that they could give, he left.
Then the owl said to the other animals, "Now the Man knows much, hell be able to do many things. Suddenly I am afraid."
The deer said, "The Man has all that he needs. Now his sadness will stop."
But the owl replied, "No. I saw a hole in the Man, deep like a hunger he will never fill. It is what makes him sad and what makes him want. He will go on taking and taking, until one day the World will say, I am no more and I have nothing left to give."
Oracle Girl: [the Prophecy]
You fear me? So you should. All you who are vile. Would you like to know how you will die? The sacred time is near. Beware the blackness of day. Beware the man who brings the jaguar. Behold him reborn from mud and earth. For the one he takes you to will cancel the sky, and scratch out the earth. Scratch you out. And end your world. Hes with us now. Day will be like night. And the man jaguar will lead you to your end.
Zero Wolf When I catch him, I will peel his skin and have him watch me wear it!. ( Speaking of Jaguar Paw )
Snake Ink: The omen was foretold, and now we have a fear more grave. Today I saw the day become like night. I saw a man run with the jaguar. We must not let this man make feet from us
High Priest: These are the days of our great lament. The land thirsts. A great plague infests our crops. The scourge of sickness afflicts at whim. They say this strife has made us weak. That we have become empty. They say that we rot. Great people of the banner of the sun... I say... we are strong. We are a people of destiny. Destined to be the masters of time. Destined to be nearest to the gods.
O warrior, unafraid and willing, with your blood you renew the world! From age to age! Thanks be to you. ( Performing a sacrifice )
When the end comes, not everyone is ready to go.
No one can outrun their destiny.
Takes out the fear residing deep inside our hearts
A GLOSSARY OF MAYAN PHRASES FROM APOCALYPTO
"My Son, don't be afraid" (Flint Sky to Jaguar Paw)
In Mayan: In waal ma' saajakta.
"We seek a new beginning." (Fish Hinter to Jaguar Paw)
In Mayan: Yan kaxtik tuumben chuunuj.
"Our life is over."
In Mayan: Ak kuxtale' ts'o'oki
"Our lands were ravaged" (Fish Hunter)
In Mayan: K-lu'uma p'ap'ay xoot ta'abi.
"Fear is a disease. Strike it from your heart." (Flint Sky to Jaguar Paw)
In Mayan: Le saajkilo jump'eel k'oja'anil. Jo'os ta puksi'ik'al.
"I saw a hole in the Man. Deep, like a hunger he will never fill.."
In Mayan: Tene' tin wilaj lu'ulumkabe yaan ti jump'eel noj jool tu puksi'ik'al. Jun'p'eel jool bey wi'ij mun xu'upule.
"Go to the forest. Run. Do not look back."
In Mayan: Puuts' ene'ex tu t's'u noj k'aax. Ma' sut ka wiche'ex.
"Raise up your spirit. Believe you have strength."
In Mayan: Liik'sa wo'ol, tukle'e yaan a muuk'.
"I am Jaguar Paw, son of Flint Sky. My Father hunted this forest before me. My name is Jaguar Paw. I am a hunter. This is my forest. And my sons will hunt it with their sons after I am gone."
In Mayan: Tene' J-Yich'ak, u yaalen J-Tuunich Ka'an. Leti'e' ts'oonaj te' ts'u noj k'aaxa' taanil ti' teen. In k'aaba'e' J-Yich'ak. J-ts'oonaalen. Le noj k'aaxa' in tial. In paalal yaan u ts'oono' weye' yeetel u paalalo'ob xan ken xi'iken. ( more )
The production team consisted of a large group of make-up artists and costume designers who worked to recreate the Maya look for the large cast.
Led by Aldo Signoretti, the make-up artists daily applied the required tattoos, scarification, and earlobe extension to all of the onscreen actors.
According to advisor Richard D. Hansen, the choices in body make-up were based on both artistic license and fact: "I spent hours and hours going through the pottery and the images looking for tattoos. The scarification and tattooing was all researched, the inlaid jade teeth are in there, the ear spools are in there. There is a little doohickey that comes down from the ear through the nose into the septum – that was entirely their artistic innovation."
An example of attention to detail is the left arm tattoo of Seven, Jaguar Paw's wife, which is a horizontal band with two dots above – the Mayan symbol for the number seven.
Simon Atherton, an English armorer and weapon-maker who worked with Gibson on Braveheart, was hired this time to research and provide the Maya weapons.
Gibson let Atherton play the cross-bearing Franciscan friar who appears on a boat at the end of the film.
Nearly ever element of the costuming was created by hand in exquisite detail by hundreds of artists from throughout Mexico.
Costume designer Mayes Rubeo, a native of Mexico City, was well prepared for the task.
She had previously conducted extensive research for a never made Mexican documentary on the ancient Maya, so was intimately aware of Mayan fashion, from the everyday to the ceremonial.
Rubeo then assembled a team of 52 people, including professors of fine arts, fashion students, embroiderers and feather artists who individually created each piece for each character.
Rubeo focused on bringing out the surprising diversity of looks that would have been seen in a major Mayan city.
"We wanted to show the complexity and variety of Mayan styles, from patterns to jewelry, to headdresses and show the way different classes dressed in Maya society," says Rubeo. "The Maya had many styles of beauty. Everyone would personalize his or her being."
One challenge Rubeo faced was the Mayan love of jade in their jewelry denoting power, wealth and prestige. "Because jade is so heavy and expensive, my team learned how to hand paint other materials to allow them to have the beauty of jade but be lightweight," says Rubeo.
Also impossible to come by were the prized, emerald-colored Quetzal bird feathers traditionally used in the spectacular headdresses of Mayan kings.
Since the Quetzal bird now lingers near extinction, Rubeo found a suitable substitute in the form of more mundane, brown pheasant feathers which were individually bleached, dyed green and hand-painted for the desire effect.
When it came to textiles, Rubeo tried to use materials indigenous to the Maya, procuring patterned fabric from such modern Mayan communities as s San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas as well as from Oaxaca where cotton is still hand loomed. "Obviously, we could not get enough of this fabric to make over 700 costumes with multiple copies of each," says Rubeo. "So using authentic samples, I did intensive research to find reproducible fabrics that look very close to the real thing."
Using the services of a master dyer from Mexico City, the fabrics were hand dyed to match the colors that the ancient Maya would have obtained from animal, mineral and plant sources.
Enhancing Rubeo's work and adding more intricate details was an international team of hair stylists, wig makers and make-up artists, ultimately numbering 300, from Italy, Mexico, Malta, France, England, Ireland and other countries. Their jobs ranged from applying tattoos and body paint to simulating the body markings of ritual scarification. ( more )
(youtube): From the forest here - Tapir hunt here - The storyteller`s dream here - Holcane attack here - Captives here - Entering the city with a future foretold here - Sacrificial procession here - Words through the sky, the eclipse here - The game and escape here - An elusive quarry here - Frog darts here - No longer the hunted here - Civilizations brought by sea here - To the forest here - Apocalypto: Original Score
Score Composed by James Horner James. Horner teams up with Mel Gibson once again for another epic adventure, with this one being set much further back than that of "Braveheart." "Apocalypto" brings us a harsh vision of an ancient civilization, and specifically, the demise of it. The score had to be on par with the movie in authenticity and effectiveness.
To begin with, we hear the chirping birds that Horner used in "The New World" right on the first track. It sounds like the exact same background track. So without even a warmup lap, we're getting hit with his repetitive styles. Granted, it's a nice sound for the setting at hand, but it's too close to what was heard in Malick's film.
In any case, we move on. The score is essentially comprised of native instruments and dark patches of music that form a displeasing wedge. This is as tough a James Horner score to listen to as I think I've ever heard. The purpose seems to have been to establish a very raw, visceral sound that could represent the brutality captured in the film. To that end, it works on some level, though I never really felt any type of emotional response eminating from the score. Perhaps it didn't dig deep enough or maybe it was too blunt. Either way, there is little to find redeeming about it.
The listener is given a bit of a reprieve when the vocal solos are heard duing the score (by Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan). These moments offer a bit of a connection from that ancient time to now and it's a welcome bridge. It also offers a glimmer of hope but it's scant; there is no drive for pleasantries here.
In the end, I was hoping for a far more mysterious, moving score than what is delivered by Horner. It should serve atmosphere of the movie well, but with a bit of imagination, we could have heard a musical tapestry befitting a rarely seen Mayan civilization.
This is a rare situation in which I recommend that even the biggest fans of this composer's work should avoid this score. In fact, I'll go one further -- I don't think a score album for this should have even been released. I'd be shocked if there were even a handful of fans who could dig the vibe and flow of the music from this soundtrack.
Final Score: Drearyand brutal, the music of "Apocalypto" should be heard only in the film itself and not on it's own. MORE
For his role as producer and director of the film, Mel Gibson was given the Trustee Award by the First Americans in the Arts organization.
Gibson was also awarded the Latino Business Association's Chairman's Visionary Award for his work on Apocalypto on November 2, 2006, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles, California.
At the ceremony, Gibson said that the film was a "badge of honor for the Latino community."
Gibson also stated that Apocalypto would help dismiss the notion that "history only began with Europeans".
Central Ohio Film Critics Association – COFCA Award for Best Cinematography (2007) – Dean Semler Dallas - Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards – DFWFCA Award for Best Cinematography (2006) – Dean Semler First Americans in the Arts – FAITA Award for Outstanding Performance by an Actor (2007) – Rudy Youngblood First Americans in the Arts – FAITA Award for Outstanding Performance by an Actor (Supporting) (2007) – Morris Birdyellowhead Imagen Foundation – Imagen Award for Best Supporting Actor (2007) – Gerardo Taracena Imagen Foundation – Imagen Award for Best Supporting Actress (2007) – Dalia Hernandez Motion Picture Sound Editors, USA – Golden Reel Award for Best Sound Editing for Music in a Feature Film (2007) – Dick Bernstein (music editor), Jim Henrikson (music editor) Phoenix Film Critics Society – PFCS Award for Best Cinematography (2006) – Dean Semler
Mel Gibson Tells Some Brutal Truths About The Amazing 'Apocalypto'.
Not to mention 'Mad Max 4,' Mussolini and unexpected Mayan enemas: (full interview here)
Loder: Did you have any doubts about making this movie in Mayan, with unknown actors?
Gibson: Yeah. But I just felt a compulsion to tell that story in that way. It's hard and it's brutal, but I think it's appropriate for the time and the subject matter. I've been criticized ...
Loder: By people who haven't seen movies like "Hostel," apparently, which is a far more violent picture.
Gibson: Well, I think so. "Hostel" was a horrifyingly violent film. I don't think ours is gratuitous. I think it's less violent than "Braveheart." It is violent, yeah. But it was a violent culture. Just thank God we didn't show you the enemas.
Loder: The enemas?
Gibson: Yeah. There are whole Mayan wall murals devoted to guys getting enemas from these women in public. It would have been like public enema number one. So we did spare you that. Critics who call this movie a bloodbath — I don't know, I think that's a little over the top.
Loder: Do you think the Mayan culture was even more violent than you've depicted it in "Apocalypto"?
Gibson: Absolutely. Some of the stuff they did was unspeakable. You could not put it on film. I really did go light. There are accounts of when the conquistadors first arrived in the Aztec empire and saw something like 20,000 human sacrifices in four days. They must have had four or five temples going at the same time. All these hearts being ripped out — it was a kind of culture of death. Human sacrifice wasn't as prevalent in the Mayan civilization as in the Aztec. But with conquest and the melding of cultures, it became more commonly practiced further south.
Loder: At the end of "Apocalypto," the first Spanish explorers arrive in the Mayan empire, and they're carrying a large cross. I know you're Catholic: What do you think was the effect of Christianity on these pagan cultures?
Gibson: Well, there were only a few hundred conquistadors, and their weaponry wasn't that far superior. The Mayans could pierce their armor — these cleavers that they had could cut a side of beef in half. So how did the conquistadors take power? I think that the majority of the populace was really discontented with what was going on. They didn't dig it.
Loder: One of the most amazing parts of "Apocalypto" is the human-sacrifice scene at the top of the pyramid. Fernando Hernandez Perez, who plays the priest in charge, makes him pretty fearsome. How did you direct him?
Gibson: I told him to be Mussolini. I said, "Have you ever seen the old films of Mussolini?" And we got some tapes for him. That strutting around and that smiling and that proud cockiness he has, it just looks like some dictator somewhere. ... The evil speakers — the Hitlers and the Stalins — were eloquent. So that's what we went for with that guy.
Loder: There's also a Mayan king up there on the pyramid, enjoying all the carnage. The actor doesn't say a word, but he's still really scary.
Gibson: He's something else. They kept bringing in guys to play that part for five weeks, and I'd look at them and say, "Where did you get that guy?" And they'd say, "We found him in the gym." And I'd say, "He looks like a guy from the gym." I said this character doesn't say anything, and we have to know when we look at him that he's the king, and why he's the king. You have to look at him one time and get an unsavory feeling, like he probably murdered his brother, stole his wife, murdered all his nephews. He's very manipulative and shrewd. So we found this guy, Rafael Velez, working on the docks in Vera Cruz. He was a very nice man, but he had this look of cold command.
"Apocalypto" Tortures the Facts, Expert Says
(Stefan Lovgren for National Geographic News)
Mel Gibson says Apocalypto, his movie set during the collapse of the Maya Empire, should not be seen as a historical document. At least one expert couldn't agree more.
To find out what the Maya Empire was really like, Stefan Lovgren checked in with Zachary Hruby, a Maya expert at the University of California, Riverside.
In Apocalypto, the hero, Jaguar Paw, lives in an idyllic hunting village set deep in the jungle. Would this have been typical? During Classic times the Maya were an agricultural people. They hunted, but wild game was a relatively small percentage of the diet, and meat in general may have been seen as more of a luxury item. At that time, it appears that almost all the forest was maintained, manicured, and owned by somebody, and [the fact] that you have a Maya group [in Apocalypto] that doesn't practice agriculture is virtually impossible.
Would Maya villagers have lived in stick huts, as they do in Apocalypto? Although houses may have been of perishable materials, they had stone foundations and were often built in cleared plazas but certainly not in the wild jungle. House lots were planned and intensively managed spaces where fruits, vegetables, and medicinal plants were grown and where some domesticated animals were raised.
The villagers are attacked and captured by men from a Maya metropolis. While the male captives are to be used in sacrificial rituals, the women are sold as slaves. There's no evidence that innocent women and men were harvested from the hinterlands and sold into slavery or to provide flesh for sacrifice. Generally captives appear to have been taken during war between polities.
Jaguar Paw and the other captives who are brought to the city have never heard of such a place. During the Classic period Maya settlement was so widespread that you lived at least within 10 to 20 kilometers [6 to 12 miles] of a large community. Pyramids were never more than 20 kilometers away from anywhere in the Maya world. There was a great sense of political connectedness between different groups. Even small villages in the hinterlands of large cities were connected to some political center.
The city is depicted as one of both great wealth—with a lot of people wearing jade jewelry—and great poverty. Jade was usually reserved for royal families. Even in cases of relatively impoverished sites … the king would wear false jade beads made of painted ceramic, indicating that the veneer of wealth was crucial no matter what the reality. Jade was the symbol of royal power and wealth. You don't find these goods in commoner graves and even very rarely in nonroyal elite burials. The Maya civilization is impressive for a number of reasons—a fully developed writing system, amazing architecture, and a complex political system. But life expectancy was low. Near the time of the collapse, people were generally undernourished, which is reflected in their bones, and they had bad problems with their teeth.
The city features dazzling pyramids but is also seen to be in a great state of disrepair. It may be modeled after Tikal in Guatemala, a great Mayan city. But it is more of a combination of architectural features from both the southern and northern lowlands on the Yucatán Peninsula. If Apocalypto is meant to to show the terminal Classic—the Classic Maya collapse—then it may have looked in a state of disrepair.The decline in social organization may have made the upkeep of public buildings a difficult economic and political endeavor.
Jaguar Paw and the other captives are to be sacrificed on a column-shaped stone to appease the gods and avert a drought. This type of sacrifice resembles one that may have been carried out by the Mexica [an Aztec-related group] in central Mexico. The Aztecs [who presided over an empire in Mexico in the 15th and 16th centuries] used a column-shaped stone on which the captive would be splayed out, back arched, allowing the sacrificer to more easily access the heart from beneath the rib cage to make a heart sacrifice. This type of sacrifice is unknown within the Maya area.
In the movie hundreds of people appear to be sacrificed at once. The Aztecs are known to have sacrificed large numbers of people, though according to the archaeological record, we are unsure of how many would be sacrificed at one time. There are no data to support that the Maya carried out sacrifice on such a large scale. The evidence we have suggests that sacrifice was a very personal thing, and so even the captives were personal objects. Even after death, the bones of those captives were owned [by the sacrificer]. Another form of [nonlethal] sacrifice to the Maya is auto-sacrifice, or bloodletting, which was carried out by males by perforating the penis and by women who would pull ropes through their tongues. This blood was used in ancestor veneration and other rituals.
The movie suggests that the Maya relished torturing their captives. The captives the Maya wanted were the elites from opposing polities, because they represented competition. Capture, humiliation, and torture of an elite warrior meant usurpation of their goods and resources. The Maya didn't necessarily relish torture and violence, but they relished making their political opponents suffer. Fingernails were torn out, genitalia and breasts exposed, and starvation was common.
In the movie the king is shown as a bystander to two other individuals during the sacrificial ritual. Most monuments depict the king as the central figure—dancing, bloodletting, scattering incense. The king was the one who supposedly conducted rituals in front of a large audience. He played a major ceremonial role. The Maya kings were seen as potent mediums in terms of communicating with their own ancestors, and the king would also impersonate deities. By doing so, the king could replay important mythological scenes that connected to events that were happening in the city at the time. It was a combination of religion and politics, but not in the sense that we think of an Egyptian pharaoh as a living god.
A solar eclipse plays a pivotal part in the movie. There are hieroglyphs to suggest that the Maya observed the eclipse. The Maya calendar supposedly ends in 2012, and people have hypothesized that [the Maya thought] the world will end at that time. But even in Mayan creation mythology, there is no explicit connection between the end of the Maya calendar and the end of the world.
The movie suggests that there were several reasons for the Maya collapse. There are many causes for the fall of that form of Classic-period social organization. Multiple historical, economic, and environmental factors were in play simultaneously at that time. It was a time of particularly bad drought. There was heavy deforestation. The ancient Maya overused their land and were no longer producing the amount of food they needed. At the same time, populations were going through the roof. There were too many people, and the pie simply wasn't big enough. There was also increased warfare in some areas. Royals were trying to kill off each other. This appeared to have occurred over a 100- to 150-year period, so it wasn't one single event. And it occurred largely in the southern Maya lowlands. In some areas in the north, the construction of pyramids and other buildings continued unimpeded [after A.D. 900]. It is important to remember that the Maya didn't disappear. They reorganized. So we should think of it more as a social reorganization than a collapse. By the time the Spaniards arrived, the social problems associated with the Classic period collapse, as portrayed in Apocalypto, did not exist.
Spoiler warning: Readers who would like to keep the ending of Apocalypto a surprise should stop reading here. In terms of historical accuracy, the arrival of the Spaniards is a problem in itself, right? The movie ends with the Spaniards coming [which didn't happen in Mexico until long after the Classic Maya collapse]. So basically we're looking at a 400-year difference in architectural style and history. The movie is mixing two vastly different time periods. This Classic form of kingship ended around 900 A.D.
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