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Martin and Hazel Quarrier are small-town fundamentalist missionaries sent to the jungles of South America to convert the Indians. Their remote mission was previously run by the Catholics, before the natives murdered them all. They are sent by the pompous Leslie Huben, who runs the missionary effort in the area but who seems more concerned about competing with his Catholic 'rivals' than in the Indians themselves. Hazel is terrified of the Indians while Martin is fascinated. Soon American pilot Lewis Moon joins the Indian tribe but is attracted by Leslie's young wife, Andy. Can the interaction of these characters and cultures, and the advancing bulldozers of civilization, avoid disaster? Written by
To study for his role as a Christian missionary, Aidan Quinn went undercover with the Wycliffe Bible Translator group in Belem, Brazil, passing himself off as a born again Christian from the American Midwest. See more »
I purchased the video of this film after it passed through the theatres so fast I was unable to see it. I had read and reread Peter Matthiessen's award winning book and still gift it to friends and family. The film remained true to the novel. No film can truly portray in three or even in five hours all the complexities that a good writer can express. This film did however do an exceptional job for the time it had.
Some have said this film is anti Protestant, or just anti missionary. That is just too simplistic and misleading a label for this story. There is far more to digest than those labels could ever suggest. Here is the deliberate forced movement or destruction of a tribe to gain gold mining opportunities. This is happening with local government officials looking the other way ignoring current federal obligations to the native population. There is a built in irony that Moon (Tom Berenger) is part Cheyenne Indian. The current South Dakota reservations came about by our government reneging on deals in order to get access to gold in the Black Hills. The result was an ecological and cultural disaster for the Sioux nation.
This film was as about the symbiosis of culture and environment. Missionaries in Micronesia told the islanders in Yap that taboos on fishing were just superstition. An island bio-system that could once support 10,000 people can now not even support 1, 000. Missionaries tell South American tribes that their occasional drug inspired journeys are pure evil. There are ways these ancient cultural traditions can be kept without any threat to Christian doctrine. Instead, especially for western protestant missionaries, conversion is often more about cultural than religious conversion. This results in the ultimate economic and ecological destruction that follows.
Everyone should see this film, and better yet read the incredible book that inspired it.
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