176 – Kon-Tiki expedition

spacetime coordinates: 1947 journey by raft across the Pacific Ocean from South America to the Polynesian islands

Kon-Tiki (1950  documentary)

Kon-Tiki is a Norwegian-Swedish documentary film about the Kon-Tiki expedition led by Norwegian explorer and writer Thor Heyerdahl in 1947.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0042650/

Kon-Tiki (2012 film)

Kon-Tiki is a 2012 historical drama film directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg about the 1947 Kon-Tiki expedition. The film was mainly shot on the island of Malta. The role of Thor Heyerdahl is played by Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen. The film is an international co-production between Norway, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. It was the highest-grossing film of 2012 in Norway and the country’s most expensive production to date

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Historical accuracy

While much of the story is historically accurate, screenwriter Petter Skavlan and director Joachim Rønning both felt the need to make the story more exciting for their two-hour feature film. The fictionalized elements have been criticized; as film critic Andrew Barker commented, “It’s frustratingly ironic that Kon-Tiki’s most outrageously fantastical sequences are completely verifiable, and its most predictable, workaday conflicts are completely made up.”

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The film focuses on Heyerdahl’s theory that Polynesia was first populated with humans from Peru, but it ignores the Norwegian’s more ethnocentric speculations that the original Kon-Tiki voyage was undertaken by a race of tall white bearded people with red hair. Heyerdahl conjectured that Amerindian civilizations like the Aztecs and the Incas only arose with the help of advanced technical knowledge brought by early European voyagers, and that these white people were eventually driven out of Peru and fled westward on rafts.

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The portrayal of the raft’s second-in-command, Herman Watzinger, proved controversial in Norway. Colleagues and relatives say Watzinger in the film is unlike the real-life Watzinger, physically or in his actions. Actor Baasmo Christiansen acknowledged the physical differences with a smile. “Watzinger was tall, dark, and Norwegian Youth Champion in the 100 meter. He was everything I’m not.” In the film, Watzinger disobeys Heyerdahl’s direct order and throws a harpoon at a whale shark under the boat, but it was actually Erik Hesselberg who harpooned the whale shark, with the crew cheering him on. The film’s Watzinger, worried about the hemp ropes’ ability to hold the balsa logs together for the entire voyage, tearfully begs Heyerdahl at sea to add steel cables Watzinger smuggled aboard but Heyerdahl’s book contains no such scene and Watzinger’s daughter has stated it never happened: “My father was a stout and confident man, and he never thought that way about the balsa logs and the ropes.” Thor Heyerdahl, Jr., who worked with Watzinger, concurred in the criticism of the film’s portrayal of Watzinger.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1613750/

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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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