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Friday, June 30, 2006

USA Today challenges Apocalypto's historical accuracy

From USA Today:

Call it The Passion of the Maya: Mel Gibson is quietly filming a movie in a Mexican jungle about the collapsed civilization.

Given Gibson's cinematic history, experts on the ancient Maya are looking forward to his upcoming epic, Apocalypto, with a mixture of curiosity and dread. They're pleased that Hollywood will feature a period of world history still little understood but worry that once again a movie may sacrifice historical accuracy for the sake of a good story.

"A lot depends on how well they depict the Maya. It may serve as a really good springboard into a lecture," says archaeologist Lisa Lucero of New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. "Or it may be something we have to nip in the bud in that first lecture."


"Actually I'm quite looking forward to seeing it. I think films like this are really funny, and they vastly help me with my teaching, " Webster says. For example, he says, using locations and temples in non-Maya areas of Mexico is "a little like filming the siege of Troy using Roman backdrops."

But after all, Apocalypto is just a movie. And students like hearing how movies get it wrong, Webster says, and enjoy learning the real story. So, "cheers to Mel for being such a juicy target." [More...]

The United Press International has also picked up on this story.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Slate - Apocalypto the best hope for the historical epic genre

Via Slate:

"...the only quasi-epic due out this year is Mel Gibson's Mayan-language Apocalypto, about the collapse of a Mesoamerican civilization some time before Columbus. With The Passion of the Christ, Gibson proved that he could woo audiences, if not the critics, with a hallucinatory, blood-drenched trip into ancient Palestine, without big-name stars or even English-language dialogue to mitigate the strangeness of his vision. He may not draw similar crowds for Apocalypto (there's no Christianity this time, or culture-war controversy), but at the moment Gibson is the historical epic's last best hope. He seems to understand that the movies can be a time machine, but only if you treat the past like the foreign country it is." [source]
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Monday, June 19, 2006

Semler: Apocalypto using digital cinematography with "extraordinary results"

From Scott Kirsner:

Speaking from the "Apocalypto" set in Mexico, cinematographer Dean Semler notes that he has been struck by the absence of blur in the foreground of his digital shots. With a Panavision Genesis camera suspended on a cable, he says, "we were moving it at running speed with our actors, tracking them through the jungle from about 20 feet away, and you'd see branches and bushes and leaves with highlights on them, streaking by in the foreground. The results were extraordinary -- these stunning images of speed."

Semler also appreciated the ability to shoot for longer stretches -- about 50 minutes -- without having to reload the camera while working on the Adam Sandler starrer "Click." "We shot for 20 or 30 minutes at a go on 'Click,'" Semler says. "It allows actors to keep 'in the moment' and allows directors to try alternatives without calling, 'Cut!' and breaking the flow. We'd change tapes maybe twice a day." [source]

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