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;_ Jungle fever
! Brazilian director Hector Babenco’s ' latest movie, the rainforest epicAt
Q Play In The Fields Of The Lord, is
i undoubtedly his most ambitious project to date. Trevor Johnston
. meets the man who took an all-star cast up the Amazon and lived to tell the tale.
‘In Dances With Wolves. Kevin Costner goes to an Indian village and who does he find to pair off with? A white woman. OK, so that movie has been a very educative one for a big mainstream American audience. but I think our film is rather more demanding. There’s no final redemption that allows the viewer to expiate the tragedy that's going on.‘
He might be too decent a sort to get into an extended bout of Kev-bashing, but filmmaker Hector Babeneo does have a point to underline. With At Play In The Fields Of The Lord, an expansive screen version of Peter Mathiessen‘s cult 60$ novel about rival American missionaries and mercenaries creating havoc among the Indian people of the Amazon basin. he‘s certainly attempting to draw up a richer and more ambiguous picture ofthe clash between Western and Native cultures than has previously been the casein movies on the same blockbuster scale. It was budgeted at around $36 million and boasts an impressive cast — you don’t find Aidan Quinn. Tom Berenger. Kathy Bates, Darryl Hannah, John Lithgow and Tom Waits in the same picture 3 every day of the week. In terms ofscale, it‘s in a i different league from the director's back :catalogue, which includes Pixote, Kiss ofthe ' Spider Woman and Iron weed.
i Babenco‘s dictum that ‘reality has more than one i point of view’ is more than borne out by the icomplex machinations ofAt Play In The Fields Of i The Lord‘s multi-character narrative. The story
pitches Lithgow‘s evangelical martinet against Quinn‘s doubt-ridden Baptist in a battle for the souls of a remote Amazonian tribe, the Niaruna— who’ve recently taken in a mysterious newcomer in the shape of Berenger's half-breed American Indian. Moon. looking to return to his native roots. With the respective missionaries‘ wives. the
‘The big issue in the Amazon is not just that we’re burning down all the trees, it’s about the untold misery that we’re inflicting on the millions of people who still live there.’
demure. repressed Hannah and the well-nigh hysterical Bates. about to take pivotal roles in the unfolding turn ofevents. it‘s doubly ironic that the Westerners’ best intentions serve only to contribute to the spiritual and economic destruction which is eating away at the jungle‘s dwindling ethnic population.
Although it reaches our screens in time to coincide with an apparent mini-wave of similarly-themed movies (among them Bruce Beresford‘s recent Black Robe and the forthcoming Sean Connery/John McTiernan saga
Medicine Man), Babeneo hopes that. at three hours plus. the scope of his film will allow for a rather more in-depth discussion of the issues at hand. Shooting for six difficult months on location with a Niaruna village peopled by Indians who’d previously left their native communities and had experienced a contemporary lifestyle, the Buenos Aires-born Brazilian resident was adamant that the portrayal of the ethnic characters should avoid caricature at all costs.
‘I wanted to do the movie so that I could give the Indians their fair share of the spotlight as well as the missionaries.’ he explains. ‘We thought we could put a little bit ofanthropology in there that would introduce this whole area to an audience that might have been to a Sting concert, but still knew very little. The big issue in the Amazon is not just that we‘re burning down all the trees. it‘s about the untold misery that we're inﬂicting on the millions of people who still live there. The Indians have been there for thousands ofyears and the forests are still intact. I want people to ask themselves why we don‘t try and learn from that.‘
' At Play In The Fields Of The Lord opens atselected cinemas across Scotland on Friday I May.
i_ i . , i i GERONIMO s REVENGE ; 'i When John Wayne camethundering i along the canyon to rescue a i beleaguered wagon train, there was ' never any doubt as to who the goodies
and baddies were. The intrepid Settlers
' were good. the Injuns bad and the
1 Cowboys protected the one from the
1 other. That‘s all very well for a wet Saturday afternoon, but Hollywood has never been quite as clear-cut as that. There has been a trail, albeit a thin
one. running trom 1912 until the
present day which has presented i
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Native Americans in a more positive light. A ten-week series of illustrated
DN FOLLOWING PAGES: HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE O RICDCHET O MDBSTERS
will follow that trail.
heras a victim.‘
| lectures at the Edinburgh Filmhouse
i ‘We are interested in seeing the
3 Western genre from a Native American perspective.’ says Shiona Wood, education officer at the Filmhouse. ‘We want to show a logical sequence, lrom
g silent lilms up to the present day, where Hollywood has taken the Native American as hero and not shown him or
Very often, especially during the
i McCarthy era, Native Americans were used as a metaphorlorthe outsider, so as well as being an examination at lilm form, the course will have a component of American history. ‘It will be quite
rigid for the first two lectures,’ says Wood. ‘We will be teaching about silent movies as well as what was happening in the 1920s. in the lilm industry and sociologically and politically.‘ Excerpts from TV and videos will also come into play as the course progresses up to the 905. (Thom Dibdin)
Geronimo's Revenge. 3 ten-week season on the Western from the Native American perspective takes place every Wednesday evening at Edinburgh Filmhouse, starting 29 May with The Vanishing American. The lecture course costs £30. but all screenings will be open to the public.