Features

Walk this way

"Walk this way" Continued...

Issue: "What women want," Jan. 21, 2006

Movies generally depict tribal people as indistinguishable stereotypes, but this film brings alive unique personalities within the Waodani tribe. The film shows them smiling, playing, worrying, and being likeable-except for that habit of killing each other. Director Jim Hanon coaxes remarkable performances from the indigenous people who make up most of his cast.

The film also captures the feel of the 1950s in its portrayal of the missionary household, as little Stevie in his cowboy hat overhears the missionaries making their plans and worries about his dad. After the slow-motion scene in which the five missionaries die, we see his grief. Then we see him living with the tribe, playing with the Waodani children, and gradually developing a life-long friendship with Mincayani, who struggles to accept his forgiveness.

The real-life Steve Saint, a missionary pilot like his father, flew the planes in the movie and commented on the script as it was developed. Mr. Saint said that when he lived with the Waodani as an adult, he and his wife showed them movies, with as many as 100 people crowding around the screen in their home. The Waodani said of Hollywood violence, "We killed people we hate, but the foreigners kill people they don't even know."

Mr. Saint showed End of the Spear to the real-life Micaye, wondering whether he would comprehend it. A little way into the movie Micaye said, "Look! That's like me!" Mr. Saint replied, "And see that little boy, he's like me!" Micaye kept up the thrill of recognition, saying throughout the movie, "And that's like . . ."

"When it got to the killing scene," Mr. Saint said, "I held my breath and prayed he wouldn't be offended." Micaye was somber as the movie depicted his character killing the missionaries. "This is our history," he said, "but other people are pretending to be us."

At the end of the movie, Micaye said he felt "very much well." Why? "Maybe now the foreigners who are living angry and killing will see there is a better trail and they will want to walk this good trail."

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith

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