Political Film Society - End of the Spear


PFS Film Review
End of the Spear


 

End of the SpearEnd of the Spear, directed by Jim Hanon, is a docudrama (based on his own 2005 documentary Beyond the Gates of Splendor) with spectacular cinematography (mostly of Panamá) and fascinating muscular actors (actually the Embera people of Panamá), though the dialog of the latter imputes a savagery that may not be authentic. The movie begins with a prologue in 1943, when a possibly genocidal battle rages between two native peoples in the upper Ecuadorian Amazon, the Waodani and the Yaomani. Dayumae (played by Christian Souza) is rescued from possible death by missionaries and lives among them until 1976, when Nate Saint (played by Chad Allen) and four colleagues (and a camera) decide to land a propeller-driven airplane on a sandbar along the river to become curiosities so that the Waodani will come near and thereby build friendship, but without realizing that they may be anthropologically or politically incorrect by engaging in cultural interference. The Waodani, nevertheless, are suspicious and massacre the five. When evidence of the massacre is verified, the missionaries find some of the bodies as well as camera footage that records the meeting. On seeing members of her family on the film, Dayumae decides to go to the jungle to bring the message of peace as well as Christianity to the Waodani. During the encounter, Mincayani (played by Louie Leonardo) accepts the opportunity to join the missionaries, though the rest do not want to be tamed, preferring to remain strong so that they can be ready for another Yaomani attack. However, polio strikes the native population, particularly the younger ones, and they are on the verge of death when the missionaries call for medicines and instructions on how to save their lives. Their example inspires the native people to give up their violent past. One missionary is six-year-old Steve (played by Chase Ellison), whose father Nate was slain by Mincayani. After the massacre, Steve returns to the United States for schooling and secures gainful employment. In 1994, however, one of the missionary women dies, so he (played by Chad Allen, who has been supplying voiceovers) flies back to Ecuador for the funeral. While there, he reacquaints himself with his life as a boy. Mincayani, guilty for having killed his father, then takes Steve to the spot where Nate was slain, hands Steve the other end of a spear, and begs to be impaled, as the custom among the Waodani is that sons avenge the death of their fathers. However, Steve is the son of a missionary, though the ending is not without a surprise. As credits roll, filmviewers are able to see film footage of actual persons portrayed in the film, which has been nominated by the Political Film Society as best film on peace of 2006. MH

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