End of the Spear

We just saw the film, End of the Spear. This is what Christian film making should be like. The story didn’t focus on the Westerners, it focused on the Waodani people (formerly called the Acka Indians, but that was a term learned from the Waodani’s foes and was an insult.) Steve Saint is not stoic, he wrestles with the death of his father and with reconciling with the man who killed him.

There was so much to love about the film. It wasn’t heavy-handedly Christian. In other words, they didn’t have to speak Christian-eze (or I guess it would be “Evangelicalian”), the fact that they’re missionaries is not pushed, and the reason for them pressing to reach the Waodani was because the military was threatening to invade their territory. Why are these things good in a film? Because if it was couched in all of those Christian tips-of-the-hat, it would play only to Christians. As it is, it is accurate and true and accessible to non-Christians.

From a film point of view, it was beautiful. We spend a lot of time with the Waodani and begin to understand their culture. It wasn’t glamorized at all. Their simple way of living was beautiful but their warrior ways were not tamed down at all. Spearing people was the way of life, it was strength and survival. When Nomi, one of their warriors, converts the rest of the men are amazed that this could happen to a warrior.

There were visual clues to tie characters together across time for us. Children in the jungle carry a parrot and then when we see them again ten years later, the parrot is there. There were great visual clues that kept things and people in order for us us. The filmmakers didn’t treat us like idiots, they help us follow the story without doubting we can. This is an independent film and one Hollywood could learn from. As I said, the brutality of the Waodani was not glossed over but it wasn’t glorified either. It was used appropriately for telling the story.

A great companion to go with this film would be Steve Saint’s talk at last year’s DGM conference. Hearing the story from Steve’s perspective was wonderful. He researched the death of his father and discovered that it couldn’t have happened. The Waodani only attack when they have superior numbers and superior weapons. The knew that the missionaries had guns and they feared guns. They only attack when they have the element of surprise. As the warriors ran across the river one of them tripped and dropped their spears making a very loud noise alerting the missionaries that they were being attacked. As Mincayani (the lead warrior) told Steve Saint about the attack later, he said he didn’t understand why they attacked. Steve determined that if God had not intervened, they would not have attacked. But it was because of the contact and the murder that they tribe was opened to further contact.

Another helpful resource would be the documentary film Beyond the Gates of Splendor. They show a few clips of at during the credits.

Go see this film.

The next story they need to tell is the story of John G. Patton.

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