The Mission (movie)

From Academic Kids

Template:Infobox Movie The Mission is a 1986 film which tells the story of a Spanish Jesuit priest who goes into the South American jungle to convert the Native Americans, who must defend his charges against the cruelty of Portuguese colonials. It stars Robert De Niro, Jeremy Irons, Ray McAnally, Aidan Quinn, Cherie Lunghi and Liam Neeson.

The movie was written by Robert Bolt and directed by Roland Joffé.


It won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography, and was nominated for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Costume Design, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Music, Original Score and Best Picture.

The film won the 1986 Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

The haunting score, composed by Ennio Morricone, has been used in many different contexts since.

Background to the film - The Jesuit Reductions (Reducciones)

The Mission is based on the real story of the Jesuit Reductions in South America, a period of outstanding missionary activity by the Jesuits, mainly with the Guarani Indians.

The indigenous people of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil, the Guaraní Indians, would have been victims of the colonial conquest in South America, had the Jesuits not been able to persuade the King of Spain to grant that vast region to their care. Having first landed in South America in 1550, the Jesuits promised the Spanish monarch generous rewards, in the form of tributes, in exchange for exempting the Indians from hard labour to which all the other tribes were subjected.

For about 150 years, the Jesuits protected the Guaraní from the raids of the slave-hunters from Portugal and Spain. They founded several missions or Reductions and developed a kind of evangelisation that was possibly unique in Christian history. Putting into practice the precepts of the Gospel through this bold experiment, they isolated the Guaraní from the bad influences of the Europeans and developed their creativity.

The Reductions were established over a vast area which today covers part of Argentina, Paraguay, southern Brazil and Uruguay. The first settlement was founded in 1609. Many other missions were established along the rivers, in the Chaco, Guaira and Paraná territories. Guided by the Jesuits, the Indians had advanced laws; they founded free public services for the poor, schools, hospitals, and abolished the death penalty. A society based on the principles of primitive Christianity was established. All the inhabitants of the Reductions worked the communal land - and all the products they produced were divided fairly among them. The Guaraní were very skilled in handicraft works such as sculpture and woodcarving. Even advanced products such as watches and musical instruments were produced in the Reductions.

The working day was about six hours, compared with 12-14 hours in Europe at that time. Free time was dedicated to music, dance, archery contests and to prayer. The Guaraní society was the first in the history of the world to be entirely literate.

The Jesuit missions reached their peak in the first half of the 18th century, with between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholic Indians in about thirty missions. They assumed almost full independence from the parts of South America ruled by Spain and Portugal, and were centres of community life. In a Reduction, the main buildings, like the church, college and churchyard were concentrated around a wide square, with houses facing the other three sides. Each village also provided a house for widows, a hospital, and several warehouses. In the centre of the square, there was a huge cross and a statue of the mission's patron saint.

The missions ended in 1767, with the expulsion of the Jesuits by the Spanish and Portuguese empires. The Indios returned to the forest. All that remains today from that period are ruins of some of the Reductions, and the indigenous language, the Guaraní, which is the only native language to be the official language of a South American nation: Paraguay. The Guaranís themselves have almost disappeared.

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