066 – The Mission (1986)

spacetime coordinates:  18th century South America

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The Mission is based on events surrounding the Treaty of Madrid in 1750, in which Spain ceded part of Jesuit Paraguay to Portugal. A significant subtext is the impending Suppression of the Jesuits, of which Father Gabriel is warned by the film’s narrator, Cardinal Altamirano, who was once himself a Jesuit. Altamirano, speaking in hindsight in 1758, corresponds to the actual Andalusian Jesuit Father Luis Altamirano, who was sent by Jesuit Superior General Ignacio Visconti to Paraguay in 1752 to transfer territory from Spain to Portugal. He oversaw the transfer of seven missions south and east of the Río Uruguay, that had been settled by Guaranis and Jesuits in the 17th century. As compensation, Spain promised each mission 4,000 pesos, or fewer than 1 peso for each of the circa 30,000 Guaranis of the seven missions, while the cultivated lands, livestock, and buildings were estimated to be worth 7–16 million pesos. The film’s climax is the Guarani War of 1754–1756, during which historical Guaranís defended their homes against Spanish-Portuguese forces implementing the Treaty of Madrid. For the film, a re-creation was made of one of the seven missions, São Miguel das Missões.

Father Gabriel’s character is loosely based on the life of Paraguayan saint and Jesuit Roque González de Santa Cruz. The story is taken from the book The Lost Cities of Paraguay by Father C. J. McNaspy, S.J., who was also a consultant on the film.

The waterfall setting of the film suggests the combination of these events with the story of older missions, founded between 1610–1630 on the Paranapanema River above the Guaíra Falls, from which Paulista slave raids forced Guaranís and Jesuits to flee in 1631. The battle at the end of the film evokes the eight-day Battle of Mbororé in 1641, a battle fought on land as well as in boats on rivers, in which the Jesuit-organized, firearm-equipped Guaraní forces stopped the Paulista raiders.

Historical inaccuracies

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040 – georgica (1998)

spacetime coordinate: post-World War II Estonia

Georgica is a 1998 Estonian drama film directed by Sulev Keedus. The film takes its name from Virgil‘s poem of the same name.

The action takes place in post-World War II Estonia. An old man lives alone on a deserted island which the Soviet fighter planes use for nighttime target practicing. A young neglected boy, who has become mute, is banished from the mainland and sent to the island to keep the old man company. Both are haunted by memories, the boy about his mother and the old man about the years before World War I he spent as a missionary in Africa.

Jakub: If you want to live and survive… then wait… Wait…and do what you’ve got to do. And then…wait again… This is the best thing you can do in this world…
I have seen it and I can tell you… You may push but only slightly… And then wait again… And you’ll live your life – and eat bread and honey… I eat honey –
and translate this old Vergil into Swahili… And I make silage for the animals on the continent… And you too will start talking when the right time has come…
(…) This end of the wax cylinder, it’s still quite empty… This is for you… Then later you can hear what your voice was like – when you were on the island – with an old man, a horse and some bees…

033 – Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970)

spacetime coordinate: 19th century Slavonice

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (Czech: Valerie a týden divů) is a 1970 Czechoslovakian surrealist horror film directed by Jaromil Jireš (1935–2001) and based on the 1945 novel of the same name by Vítězslav Nezval (1900–1958). It is considered part of the Czech New Wave movement.

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The 1970 film adaptation of Valerie a týden divů was shot in 1969 starring 13-year-old Jaroslava Schallerová as Valerie, with a supporting cast of Helena Anýžová, Karel Engel, Jan Klusák, Petr Kopriva, among others. It was filmed in the Czech town of Slavonice and surrounding areas. The film portrays the heroine as living in a disorienting dream, cajoled by priests, vampires, men and women alike, and blends elements of fantasy and horror films.

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Promotional trailer advertising the first public screening of a newly discovered print of Jaromil Jire’s legendary erotic horror-fantasy HERE

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029 – silence (2016)

spacetime coordinate: St. Paul’s College, Macau  17th century Nagasaki, Japan

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Silence is a 2016 religious historical epic drama film directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Jay Cocks and Scorsese, based upon the 1966 novel of the same name by Shūsaku Endō. Set in Nagasaki, Japan, the film was shot entirely in Taiwan around Taipei. The film stars Andrew Garfield (as Sebastião Rodrigues), Adam Driver (as Francisco Garupe), Liam Neeson, Tadanobu Asano and Ciarán Hinds.

The plot follows two 17th century Jesuit priests who travel from Portugal to Japan to locate their missing mentor (Father Cristóvão Ferreira) and spread Catholic Christianity. The story is set in the time of Kakure Kirishitan (“Hidden Christians”) which followed the defeat of the Shimabara Rebellion (1637–1638) of Japanese Roman Catholics against the Tokugawa shogunate.

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father Rodrigues is fascinated by the face of Jesus Christ and visualizes it in the form of this portrait by El Greco

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007 – Cabeza de Vaca 1991

film about the adventures of Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (c. 1490 – c. 1557), an early Spanish explorer, as he traversed what later became the American Southeast. He was one of four survivors of the Narvaez expedition and shipwreck. He became known as a shaman among the Native American tribes he encountered, which helped him survive. His journey of a number of years began in 1528. After his return to Spain, he published his journal in 1542. The screenplay by Guillermo Sheridan and Nicolás Echevarría is based on this journal.

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