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

Blood, Gore and Gibson

Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto has the unique distinction of being the only feature film whose dialogue is entirely in the lovely Mayan language.

This remarkable feature is offset, of course: Gibson portrays the Maya as either Noble Savages living “innocently” in the forest, violently impaling pigs and playing nasty practical jokes on their friends (in the first five minutes), or as Jaded Bloodthirsty City-Dwellers, drugged or diseased, performing mass sacrifices, and cowering at a solar eclipse (a scene Gibson borrowed from Mark Twain’s Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court). The ancient Maya may have had a stone-age technology, but they were excellent astronomers: they knew how to predict eclipses. He seems reluctant to credit them with anything good, even of having built a glorious city of towering pyramids. which he shows for about three seconds total…. In this, he is not unlike the first explorers, who gave credit for the Mayas’ Lost Cities to the Phoenicians, the Lost Tribes of Israel, the Egyptians, … anybody but those pesky Indians. The little bit of Maya costume and construction we are granted to see (most of the film is one long, tedious Run Through the Jungle) is mostly authentic, thanks to the guidance of Gibson’s adviser Archaeologist Richard Hansen, who has been excavating in the vast Mirador Basin in Northern Guatemala for several years now.


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