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Film History

The film “The Mission” paints the picture of the 18th-century colonialism and missionary interest in South America. One such mission is that of Spanish Jesuit priest Father Gabriel, who set foot to the Paraguayan and the Northeastern Argentina jun...Read More

~Posted on Feb 2018


The film “The Mission” paints the picture of the ...

The film “The Mission” paints the picture of the 18th-century colonialism and missionary interest in South America. One such mission is that of Spanish Jesuit priest Father Gabriel, who set foot to the Paraguayan and the Northeastern Argentina jungle to convert the local community the Guarani to Christians. Also, he wanted to set up a mission station. Regarding the attitude of the Guarani people towards visitors and Christianity, the prospective task intended by Father Gabriel looked challenging and difficult to undertake. Luckily, he won the hearts of the locals, and they decide to follow his ideologies. However, the mission was met with challenges along the way that led to the subsequent death of Father Gabriel. Therefore, this article will endeavor to explore the individuals involved in this mission, the period, and ideas that were propagated. It will also focus on the historical events that led to the film’s setting and those that resulted from the action of the movie or followed the film’s period.

    To begin with, one of the protagonists in the film is Jesuit priest Father Gabriel, who decided to spread Christianity to the locals and set up a mission station. Specifically, his first encounter with the locals was strenuous as he met resistance from the Guarani people as he found one of the missionaries being whipped and sent over to the Iguazu Falls. He then purposed to win their trust by playing them his oboe an act that saved his life. Throughout the film, Father Gabriel’s effort to transform the community is displayed by many acts. The mission center acts both as an educational center and sanctuary. Another Christian act of Father Gabriel is displayed when he manages to convince Mendoza to take a vow and becomes a Jesuit. Mendoza told Gabriel, “For me there is no redemption, no penance great enough”. Gabriel replied, “There is. But do you dare to try it?” Eventually, Mendoza is given a Bible, and he joins the missionary work of Father Gabriel.

    Another key personality in this film is Rodrigo Mendoza, who is both a mercenary and an enslaver. He is seen killing his young half-brother whom he discovered had an affair with his fiancée, Carlotta. The turn of events saw Mendoza arrested by Spanish governor Don Cabeza but later acquitted. He goes into depression and later sought absolution from Father Gabriel. Therefore, the picture of redemption is painted by the act of Mendoza taking vows and converting to Jesuitism. His commitments to faith are demonstrated when he decides to defend militarily this mission by teaching the Guarani the European art of war. He goes ahead to demonstrate his allegiance to Jesuitism by breaking his vows to defend the mission.

    Other key personalities of interest in the film are Don Cabeza and Don Hontar, Spanish, and Portuguese governors respectively. They were administrators who represented the two colonial groups. They also attacked the local community and the missionaries who were resisting the order to have the mission centers closed. Their forces engaged in a battle with the locals causing a lot of destruction and killings in the village. After the attack Altamirano asked the two governors, “And you have the effrontery to tell me that this slaughter was necessary?”

    Papal emissary Cardinal Altamirano is also another character of interest in the film because of his survey mission to assess the situation on the ground. Upon his arrival in the mission centers, he is amazed by their progress and thus torn between whether to rule for the colonist or the missions. He decides to rule against the missionaries to avoid conflict of interest but fails to convince the locals. “Tell them they must leave the missions. They must submit to the will”, said Altamirano. Gabriel replied by telling him, “They say it was the will of God that they came out of the jungle and built the mission. They do not understand why God has changed his mind”. Consequently, this led to the battle that seeks to eject the missionaries and reinforce the colonists.

    Therefore, the film has managed to depict various themes and concepts such as colonialism, allegiance, missionary, and conquest.  Colonialism and conquest have been demonstrated when Spanish and Portuguese powers gang up against the missionaries and the locals. The allegiance to faith is depicted when Mendoza and the locals resist the move to expel the missionaries out of the villages. Missionary work is depicted when Father Gabriel devotes his energy to spreading the gospel to the local Guarani people who welcomes the mission and resist the efforts to have it expelled.

    The historical event that led to the film’s setting was mainly slavery. The missionaries were not impressed with the inhumane acts that were going on in the continent of South America. Various colonial powers had established colonies in the region and were mistreating the locals and forcing them to work in their large plantations. The main reason for slavery in South American continent was to provide labor on the plantations that would increase raw materials for industries in Europe. The missionaries were against slavery because their doctrines did not permit such inhuman acts. Therefore, they set up missions to help them spread the gospel and condemn these acts of slavery in the region. 

    On the other hand, historical events that followed the film’s period are revolution, independence and the emergence of churches. Through the knowledge acquired from the missionaries, the local were empowered, and they started to revolt against the colonial powers. In some countries, it led to civil wars that eventually led to independence. The colonial administrators returned to their countries and the locals later took control of their affairs. Christianity later spread to a wider segment of the globe which led to the emergence of churches across the world.  

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