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End of the Spear


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Just ran across this movie. Here's the movie's homepage where there's a trailer (you have to download a pointer file and open that to stream the movie if you're doing quicktime). Anyway, it could be pretty decent or it could be total cheese. I'm a bit wary of it, just because on the preview they say, "no one has ever made contact with them and made it back alive," yet somehow they know that 6 out of 10 of them "die by the spear." hmm. Anyway, between this and the Wilburforce movie, it's looking to be an interesting year for Christian biofilms.

Scott -- 2nd Story -- Twitter

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There's also a documentary that is going out alongside the film, titled Through Gates Of Splendor (which is taken from the Elisabeth Elliot book of the same name). We watched an abridged version of the documentary - which I think was part of a promotional kit that is being sent out to churches - and I was left feeling a bit "meh". Though that was due more to the fact that, being abridged, the film felt very jumpy and fragmented. That, and the narrator didn't have the strongest voice.

I agree, it could be pretty good, or a bit on the cheesy side... the skeptic in me is leaning towards the latter.

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I've seen End of the Spear -- it's quite strong. Scheduled for release on 1200 screens January 6th. I wasn't happy with the casting of the lead and wasn't too happy with one of the scenes at the end, but much of it is very good. Some of the aerial shots are amazing, and the film overall has almost a Dances with Wolves vibe. The Indian actors (all recruits from a Panamanian tribe) are excellent.

"Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?"

« Nous connaîtrions-nous seulement un peu nous-mêmes, sans les arts? »

Quoted on Canada's $20 bill; from Gabrielle Roy's novel La montagne secrète. The English translation, The Hidden Mountain, is by Harry L. Binsse.

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Oh, and the subtitle of this thread is The Jim Elliot Story. That's kind of true, but this is the Nate Saint story if anything (Elliot has a fairly limited appearance), but even to focus on Nate Saint or his son Steve, who appears in the movie and did all the flying) would be wrong. It's really about Mincaye, whose name in the film is Mincayani ('ani' being the Waodani word for 'people', reflecting the composite nature of the character in the film).

I'll try to write more later.

"Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?"

« Nous connaîtrions-nous seulement un peu nous-mêmes, sans les arts? »

Quoted on Canada's $20 bill; from Gabrielle Roy's novel La montagne secrète. The English translation, The Hidden Mountain, is by Harry L. Binsse.

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I'm a bit wary of it, just because on the preview they say, "no one has ever made contact with them and made it back alive," yet somehow they know that 6 out of 10 of them "die by the spear."

This appears to be true. The homicide rate among the Huanori seems to have been about 60 percent prior to the cultural revolution resulting from their contact with the missionaries, though presumably that statistic was only worked out later, based on their oral family biographies. It's much lower now. smile.gif

But if the trailer shows the missionaries knowing going in that the homicide rate is 60 percent, then that would seem to be an anachronism.

BTW, the documentary is called Beyond the Gates of Splendor, a slight departure from the title of Elisabeth Elliot's book. I agree, it's not a great doc, though the story is so strong it can't be without interest.

BTW again, Elisabeth Elliot is the sister of one of my favorite writers, Thomas Howard.

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But if the trailer shows the missionaries knowing going in that the homicide rate is 60 percent, then that would seem to be an anachronism.
Yeah, that's what happens. A woman (presumably Elizabeth Elliot) tells her husband those two little factoids right after each other.

Scott -- 2nd Story -- Twitter

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Got this press release today:

From: Jennifer Ranville

Sent: Thursday, October 06, 2005 11:06 AM

Subject: NEWS RELEASE: Licensing Program Unveiled for End of the Spear

Licensing Program Unveiled for End of the Spear

Licensees Introducing Array of Products to Support Motion Picture

Oklahoma City, Okla., Oct. 6, 2005 - Entertainment company Bearing Fruit Communications today announced it has reached agreements with licensing partners for End of the Spear-branded book, music, apparel, jewelry and home d

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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The Reason they know 6 out of ten of the people die is because there is a tribe member named dyuma that left the tribe. The five men contacted her and they learned the language from her because she can also speak english and they learned facts from her about the tribe. Trust me I know

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End of the Spear Big Winner at Heartland

Film about 1956 missionary martyrs in Ecuador wins Film Festival's $50,000 Grand Prize; others also lauded at Crystal Heart Awards Ceremony.

ChristianityToday.com, October 17

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Can a gay actor play a missionary martyr? (Well, if it worked for Chariots of Fire...)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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In principle, I'm with you on this question, Peter--"that's why they call it 'acting.'"

Assuming that a film's credibility is undermined because of an actor's offscreen life is absurd. Did people reject Gandhi because Ben Kingsley wasn't a celibate vegetarian? Was there an uproar because Susan Sarandon, not married to Tim Robbins, played a nun in Dead Man Walking? The answers to my rhetorical questions may be "in some cases, yes" but I would still maintain that these performances succeeded sufficiently on their own terms.

On the other hand, is this question somewhat like some people asking--"can an non-Christian or atheistic author or director produce a book or film with Christian themes? How seriously can we take such themes if we know the author/director isn't a believer?" But trying to determine "authorial intent" is difficult, in some cases impossible. We're better off examining the text itself; even when the author is alive and willing to discuss his or her intentions, he or she may not understand the full depth of the meanings the work may evoke in a reader. God moves in each of us in mysterious ways, even when we don't acknowledge him.

There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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This reminds me of the response to one of Jeffery's posts somewhere when he reported on the rumor that Jim Caviezel would be playing Superman. Someone wrote back about how to many Christians Caviezel had "become Christ."

You know, the Church has historically been pretty hostile toward acting (I'm particularly thinking of her disapproval of drama during the Elizabethan period) and this sort of thing makes me wonder if there's still some lingering misunderstanding of what acting is and entails that stems from Church tradition. I'd have a hard time making the connection more clear, but it's just a thought that occurred to me.

Scott -- 2nd Story -- Twitter

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FWIW, as I mentioned at my blog a few months ago, the Greek Orthodox Church apparently figures actors are unsuitable for the clergy, though I am not entirely sure why this would be.

As for casting Sarandon (or Sean Penn, for that matter) in Dead Man Walking, I actually thought of that as an example of how an actor's offscreen exploits (or onscreen exploits in other movies) can sometimes colour how we interpret his or her performance in a new movie. And I think it would be foolish to say that we never let those things colour our interpretation, or that we SHOULD never let those things colour our interpretation; many comedies, but also some serious movies, have been built on precisely this tension between what is IN the text and what is OUTSIDE the text. (Doesn't the fact that we know Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman were married at the time they made Eyes Wide Shut -- or Far and Away, for that matter -- affect how we watch those movies? Don't you think Stanley Kubrick and Ron Howard were aware of this when they cast those actors in their respective roles?)

What's interesting about Dead Man Walking is that we know it's a politically conscious film made by a politically conscious director and a couple of politically conscious actors -- and it manages to TRANSCEND all that political stuff by focusing on the real-life nun's very spiritual journey. The politics are still there, but the film is nowhere near as strident as it could have been, or as we might have expected it to be. As a result, we feel that the actors have transcended their offscreen personae, too.

As for End of the Spear, I don't think the actor playing Nate Saint is anywhere near well-known enough -- as an actor or as a gay man -- for his personal lifestyle to be any sort of issue. I'm sure LOTS of people who have sex outside of marriage have played famous Christians, so why would we focus specifically on the GAY guy?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Peter when you said:

As for End of the Spear, I don't think the actor playing Nate Saint is anywhere near well-known enough -- as an actor or as a gay man -- for his personal lifestyle to be any sort of issue. I'm sure LOTS of people who have sex outside of marriage have played famous Christians, so why would we focus specifically on the GAY guy?

I find myself in agreement, but sadly so. As a reviewer I would rather see a great actor (does not need to be famous) portraying a Christian figure than a poor actor who is a Christian. I would think, though, that we could have both. I think one of the reasons Caviezel was so moving as our Lord in THE PASSION was in part because his heart belongs to Him.

Denny

Since 1995 we have authored a commentary on film, cinema in focus. Though we enjoy cinema as an art form, our interests lie not so much in reviewing a film as in beginning a conversation about the social and spiritual values presented. We, therefore, often rate a film higher or lower due to its message rather than its quality of acting or film-making.

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  • 2 months later...

My interview with Steve Saint and Mincaye (part one, part two).

Cal Thomas - "...it is the finest film of its kind I have seen..."

Agape Press article about the 'gay actor controversy.'

"Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?"

« Nous connaîtrions-nous seulement un peu nous-mêmes, sans les arts? »

Quoted on Canada's $20 bill; from Gabrielle Roy's novel La montagne secrète. The English translation, The Hidden Mountain, is by Harry L. Binsse.

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Lisa Ann Cockrel of CT Movies reviews it here.

Naturally, this movie is not opening in Canada. Christian movies never do.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Naturally, this movie is not opening in Canada. Christian movies never do.

It may reach Canada in 4-6 weeks, but nothing definite.

"Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?"

« Nous connaîtrions-nous seulement un peu nous-mêmes, sans les arts? »

Quoted on Canada's $20 bill; from Gabrielle Roy's novel La montagne secrète. The English translation, The Hidden Mountain, is by Harry L. Binsse.

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Tim Willson wrote:

: It may reach Canada in 4-6 weeks, but nothing definite.

Keep me posted if you hear anything -- I'd like to review it for the usual outlets, BEFORE it opens (because AFTER it opens, I doubt it'll stick around).

Oh, and about queer actors playing Christian characters ... don't forget that Alec Guinness became a Catholic partly because of his experiences making the Father Brown movie ...

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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My wife wanted to see this movie over the weekend, so we went Saturday afternoon. A good sized group was there to see it.

I went in with some hesitancy - mostly because I prefer "fun" movies, and I knew going in that this would be anything but fun. And I was right. While there were some spots of natural humor, the story is a serious one of loss, anger, forgiveness, hope, and violence.

From a story point-of-view, I'm still processing it. Would I have that kind of faith - to go into the "jungle" (whatever that would mean to me) - knowing that I might not come out alive? Would I be able to leave my children like that? Would I be able to trust so much? Would I have the faith to take my children with me into the same village that only weeks before killed my spouse and my friends (as some of the missionaries' wives did)? Would I be able to forgive the man that speared my father?

This story is incredibly challenging, regardless of how well (or not) it is told. From a movie-making point-of-view, I thought this effort was very well done. Steve Saint did much of the actual flying in the film, and the aerial photography is beautiful. The jungle fight scenes are tense, frightening, and claustrophobic. The meltdown of communication on the sandbar leading up to the death of the missionaries is harrowing, all the more so because you know it is coming, and you can't do anything to stop it. There was only one mis-step in the storytelling, in my opinion, and it came near the end,

when Micanyani is telling Steve about the death of the father, there is a flashback that attempts to show a vision of angels that Nate saw at his death, and that apparently the tribesmen also saw. The scene is not done well - it looks like a moment from "Touched By An Angel" or "It's a Miracle" with lots of backlight and ethereal music. But it also is a moment of the supernatural that does not seem to fit in with everything that has led up to it. In other words, the filmakers do not prepare the audience for a visitation of angels, and so when it happens, it seems out of place.

It's a powerful story, powerfully told. Recommended.... but I'm not sure I want to see it again myself anytime soon. I still have some processing to do from the first viewing...

B

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I believe Jason Janz was on the Christian radio station here in Detroit two days ago and it is his site that seems to be the cause of much of the controversy of a gay activist playing a missionary that is surrounding this movie.

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Brandon

"God is so great and merciful that he does not require that we name him precisely. God is even willing to be anonymous for a time. Remember how God led the Three Wise Men from the East to Christ? The Wise Men did not know the God of Israel or Jesus. They worshipped the stars. So God used a star to lure them."--The Twelve Steps for Christians

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Here is the Chicago Tribune's acerbic review. I'm sure the reviewer has some valid points about the movie, and I can understand trying to be entertaining in the way one writes a review. But the repeated anti-Christian digs in a movie review just seem weird. My wife wondered why she didn't just stick to reviewing the movie.

That "End of the Spear" is a no-holds-barred Christian movie is not necessarily a bad thing

Wow, how big of her to say so!

"Spear" is the "true story" of the Waodani tribe

What's with the quotes around "true story"?

Steve can either forgive Mincayani for the death of his father or hold hate and fear in his heart forever.

What would Jesus do?

I can't decide if she's trying to be funny here or not. I assume so, based on other reviews of hers that I've read, but it's really not a funny topic. And part of me hopes that she protesteth too much.

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