The Mission

I think this is probably the fifth time I have seen The Mission. However, every time I watch it I am slightly disturbed, not only because it is a sad movie, but also because of the gross misrepresentation of the Jesuits. The movie portrays the Jesuits to be loving, caring individuals that only want to help the Guaraní but do not want to be caught up in the political tension between the Portuguese and the Spanish. However, this is a inaccurate depiction of history. I’m sure that some of the depictions have some validity, but either way, the movie does distorts the truth. The Catholic Church has always been a part of politics and has also played a huge part in acts of violence and violations of human rights in a variety of different places around the world, including Latin America.

I never really knew exactly how inaccurate The Mission was until I read the piece by Seager entitled, “The Mission and Historical Missions.” I found the false depiction of the Guaraní’s willingness to convert to Christianity particularly interesting. Seager says that, “Most Guaranis rejected Christianity for decades, often generations. In missions, Christian concepts clashed with aboriginal beliefs, and Guarani ideology failed to appreciate good, evil, sin and other Christian doctrines. Thus, the conversion of Christianity by people without religion is ethnically demeaning…” An important point of the movie was to show that even though the Jesuits made “civilized Christians” out of the Guarani, that the Spanish and Portuguese still slaughtered them. This is supposed to make the audience feel sorry for the Jesuits and put the blame on the Spanish and Portuguese. But in reality, the Guarani did not even want to be converted in the first place—which brings me to the main thing that I want to talk about—cultural imperialism and ethnocentrism.

The Mission does an excellent job of captivating the audience with heart wrenching scenes so that they might overlook the fact that what the Jesuits were doing is an excellent example of cultural imperialism. Clearly the Jesuits were ethnocentric. They thought that their culture and religion was better than that of the Guarani, and that it was their duty to teach the Guarani their way of life. So, in a way they were just like the Spanish and the Portuguese, because their actions were equally as imperialistic and destructive but in a different way. This movie was clearly made primarily for entertainment instead of accurately depicting history, even if the creators of the movie claim, “the historical events represented in this story are true.” Seager states, “Because of the power of film, movies with historical themes affect public perceptions of the past more deeply than do scholarly reconstructions.” People are captivated by film. With film, the audience is able to see the events unfold and see into the lives of the characters. Because of this, a film is able to tap into the emotions of the audience, making the audience sympathetic to the message of that film. This makes the historical depiction of the film important, or else the real history is going to be distorted in the minds of the viewers.