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Name: Natalie Santander The Mission Film Guide Period:1st

You are to provide thoughtful responses to following questions: (yes, you’ll be graded on the completeness
of your responses; your participation in our film discussion is also part of your grade). This guide with the
completed questions is due 10/18-19 at the start of your class period. We will discuss the film in a Socratic
Seminar 9/18-19.
The film is set in the region of Northern Argentina, Paraguay, and Southern Brazil in the 1750’s. The
Jesuit Order has come to build a series of missions among the Guaraní indians The Treaty of Madrid,
which had been hammered out in 1750 by the Pope, the Spanish and the Portuguese, stipulates that this
region, where seven Jesuit missions are operating, will be transferred from the Spanish to the Portuguese in
exchange for other territories. These territorial conflicts were established by the Line of Demarcation
created by the pope and agreed upon in the Treaty of Tordesilla.
● Guaraní natives- played by the Waunana and the Onaní of Colombia
● Father Gabriel, Jesuit priest played by Jeremy Irons
● Rodrigo Mendoza- slave trader turned Jesuit missionary (Robert De Niro)
● Don Cabeza- slave trader, plantation owner
● Altamirano (“His eminence”) - a cardinal and papal legate (Pope’s representative to this region) sent
in 1752 to oversee the transfer of this territory from the Spanish to the Portuguese.
Study Questions: Write these on loose-leaf.
1) What is the historical setting of this film? From whose point of view is the film made? (In other
words, who is the speaker of the film?)
There is a power shift between Portuguese and the Spanish as the Spanish are using missions to
convert masses of natives specifically the Guaraní. The point of view is from a Spanish elite
(Altamirano) who is checking out the mission for the king.
2) Make the chart below on your paper – please double space. What is the Role of each of the following
groups? Who are the heroes, the villains, the victims? With which group do you sympathize?

The Spaniards villains: they were violent in response to opposition from the Guaraní and mission
officials as well as overall violence

The Portuguese villains(sidekick): helped the Spanish dominate and hurt the indigenous peoples.

The Church neutral because they had no say nor did they do much to help the indigenous peoples
until the end; both hero and villain because of the brave actions of the priests living
with the Guaraní but also forced natives to turn away and only follow their religion

The Jesuits heroes because they consisting of Rodrigo, Father Gabriel, and others who helped
ambush the incoming Spanish at the end and defending native right to stay in the
mission instead of returning to the jungle.

The Guarani victims because of overall lifestyle and culture switch they endured when first
colonized and forced to move to the missions and enduring tedious labor and again
when Spanish wanted them to get out of the mission and go back where they came

a) With which group do you sympathize? What Pathos was used to bring about this sympathy?
I sympathize with the Guaraní because they were forced to endure drastic lifestyle and
culture changes that may have forever changed generations that followed as well as not
having access to their old customs, traditions, and resources once in the mission only to later
on be told that they have to go back to the forest when they adjusted to life in the mission.
Images of children performing work, closeups of the faces of children during the fight scene
as well as the perception of them as innocents complying with Catholicism through song then
being massacred. Lastly, the ending scene where the children who survived rowed away in
the boat deep into the forest to avoid death by slaughter.
b) How accurate do you think the film’s portrayal of these groups is?
It was pretty accurate in ways such as the very rare and small amount of Spanish who were
on the side of the indigenous peoples and advocating for them to their Spanish comrades and
superiors. It was also accurate in ways of Spanish domination and assimilation of native and
Spanish culture through forced labor and religion conversions in missions. Aslo represents
what happened to Natives when they were found ¨guilty¨
3)What is the role of the mission? How has the mission changed the lives, actions, dress, and thoughts of the
Guaraní? Why don't the Guaraní want to go back to the forest?
To convert natives to Catholicism and live civilized lives according to Spanish values and customs. It
introduced them to new told and tech. that that became accustomed to and they lived according to Spanish
societal standards. They didn’t want to go back because they set their roots and new altered native customs
in the mission which made it easier for them to live.
4) Does this film portray the Guaraní as having an active role in the development of their history? Do their
kings matter and make big decisions?
It shows how Guaraní superiors and kings had the ability to talk to their Spanish colonizers about
what they wanted, but for the most part had no large impact on how their development in history and lives
were structured. That power was delegated to the reigning Spanish settlers/king.
5) What is the role of music in the life of the Guaraní?
Music wasn’t a monumental aspect of their culture in the beginning, but once Spanish colonized it
became a gateway that connected the 2 cultures through common understanding even if it was in different
languages literally.
6) Examine power relations as depicted in this movie. How do the church, state, and indigenous peoples
There were extreme power imbalances within the film with the State being at the top and Guaraní
natives at the bottom. Natives basically had to listen to both the Church when being forced to convert and
follow Catholic lives as well as submit to Spanish demands no matter what out of fear. In the middle, the
Church was of course an important factor in controlling natives but had no legal dominion and supported
less of the labor and more of the religious control because they were neutral. THe Church overall cared
about natives living CAtholic lives and didn’t do much when natives were attacked and persecuted. Lastly,
the State is at the top of the power chain because they assert their dominance through violence and
considered to be of higher value than the Church thus obviously toppling the indigenous and the Church.
7) What is the Argument being made by this film? How does the argument address the purpose?
List 3 Reasons the filmmaker offers to support the argument and one piece of evidence for each reason.
The argument shown in the film was essentially asking the question “Was Spanish colonization of
natives in the New World justly acceptable and humane in their methods of doing so?” and this movie
argues no.
I. Guaraní were forced out of the jungle to begin with against their will in which those who
opposed were slaughtered which overall was a bloodbath that was justified by Europeans as
necessary for business and to improve their lives.
II. Because they indigenous had to move, their existing lifestyle and culture was disrupted which
can cause mental trauma uprooting their lives and having to completely change everything
about themselves which caused internal turmoil.
III. After re-settlement of the natives into European society, they were deprived of bsic human
rights and regarded as less than as well as constant anxiety of life or death if they anger their
new superiors in such way.