'Apocalypto' under attack in Guatemala

Mel Gibson might be undergoing a rapid transformation from saint to sinner in the eyes of the Guatemalan people.

Guatemala is an intensely religious country, and “The Passion of the Christ” was one of the most popular films in its history. The release was a phenomenon in a nation where Semana Santa — Easter week — is by far the year’s major holiday.

When that film was released in 2004, one newspaper ran a cartoon of Jesus looking down from heaven and asking, “Why all the commotion in Guatemala?” He’s told it’s because “all the Christians are running around looking for pirated copies of ‘The Passion of the Christ.’ ”

But the reaction to Gibson’s Mayan-language “Apocalypto,” which is scheduled to open March 9 in Guatemala, is stirring up passions of a different sort in a country that is 43% pure Mayan.

According to Guatemala’s Prensa Libre newspaper, a member of the Presidential Commission Against Racism & Discrimination called the film “racist and without a connection to reality.” (He hadn’t seen it yet.)

And the head of the National Council of Mayan Education said the film “leaves a message of discrimination and racism that should be rejected by Guatemalans.” (It’s unclear whether he’d seen the film.)

A slightly more upbeat take came from a Guatemalan who had actually seen the picture. “Cinefilo” Leon Aguilera said although “Apocalypto” was “plagued with anachronisms,” it was also “rich in production, wardrobe and makeup,” and he reminded viewers, “It’s only a movie.”

This time around the paper’s cartoon had Gibson being told there were people outside who were accusing him of racism. He replies that he’s already apologized to the Jews.

Now, he’s told, the ones complaining are indigenous Mayan orgs.

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