Glyphs – The Ancient Maya and the Film Industry, Part II

Another Good Documentary and a Couple Feature Films

National Geographic, once reknowned for the quality of its features about the Maya (and the ancient Americas in general), has lost a little of its Mesoamerican creds since George Stuart retired. One of the documentaries that I DO recommend, they made during his tenure: Dawn of the Maya (2004).

It was this film that introduced me to producer/director Graham Townsley.

He has been responsible for about 20 films (mostly on PBS’s “NOVA”), as producer, director, and/or writer. His work is intelligent and deeply respectful of the people he exhibits for us.
So I was deeply honored when he sought me out to contribute to his new series on the Maya predictions of 2012, and the 2012 phenomenon in general. It will consist of three parts, one about the ancient Maya calendar and their culture of prophecy, a second on the Maya Collapse of the tenth century, and a third on the modern New Age response to the so-called “Mayan 2012 Prophecies”. I believe in this one, you’ll get to see my face…

Among films-as-entertainment, a few spring to mind. In some James Bond film from my distant youth, the Bad Guy and his bevy of buxom, blank-faced women occupy a fanciful Maya ruin, where James battles crocodiles or water snakes… (Why didn’t the Baddie just throw him into a piranha pool?) More recently, the latest “National Treasure”

and “Indiana Jones” films construct quasi-Maya temples (replete with Chichen-Itza serpents, talud-tablero step-pyramids, and numerous teetering replicas of the Aztec Sun Stone.

The “Jones” film also features the gratuitous massacre of an entire population of Maya Temple guardians and destruction of a whole alien museum, just because George Lucas couldn’t figure out what to do with them by film’s end. (At least Nicholas Cage is able to save the Museum of Alexandria!) Finally, they put Maya inscriptions side-by-side with Ancient Chinese Shang-Dynasty characters, and locate Maya civilization in South Dakota and Peru respectively. I roll my eyes, heave a big sigh. … Ah, Hollywood!

 


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