(2006; Maya) Up until Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood) is trying to outrun a black jaguar in the forest, I took director Mel Gibson's violent action film (co-written and co-produced with Farhad Safinia) of Mayan peoples, just before the arrival of the Conquistadors, at face value.
At that point in the apocryphal adventure, in addition to being chased by the big cat, he's been wounded with an arrow through his side and being pursued by eight very angry men from whom he's just barely escaped execution in a brutal sport. He's recently witnessed a bloodthirsty ceremony - sacrificial appeasement to the gods - in which two of his companions were slit open on an altar atop a temple, the hearts removed, the heads lopped off and tumbled down a steep staircase to the populace (who refer to themselves as "the banner of the sun") below, followed by the decapitated corpses.
Jaguar Paw would have been next but for a propitious solar event, turning day into night, as prophesied by a shunned and sickly girlchild. Compounding his immediate plight, Jaguar Paw is worried about his very pregnant wife Seven (Dalia Hernández), whom he left at the bottom of a deep natural well with their young son Turtles Run when their village was attacked just before he was captured.
In his valiant effort to elude his foes, he leaps down a towering waterfall (more incredible than his surviving the plunge is that six of his assailants follow), frees himself from a pit of quicksand, and takes another arrow to his chest. And then comes the rain, filling up the well where his wife gives birth with her head barely out of water and her other child sitting on her shoulders …
The depiction of a primitive forest people in Central America - a group of men hunting a tapir, their village life (teasing a member who hasn't produced any children; listening to the Old Story Teller narrate the genesis of man, who after receiving attributes from animals still has a hole within, making him sad with an insatiable need to taking more from the world) - before they are attacked and their dwellings burned is fascinating.
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