- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 19, 2006

Fifty years ago this month, five young missionaries were killed by an Ecuadorian tribe known to the world as the Auca Indians. Auca means savage.

The tribe called itself, then and now, the Waodani. The real story isn’t only the death of those five young men. It is also the incredible reconciliation not long after, as relatives of the dead men returned to offer love and peace to the very people who had murdered their loved ones.

That incident and reconciliation are told in a remarkable new film to be released in 1,200 theaters this weekend. It’s called “End of the Spear.” It is the finest film of its kind I have seen.

This isn’t one of those liberal sob stories one hears in a debate about capital punishment. This is about the power of true forgiveness. It is unlike anything one sees in contemporary culture. Beautifully photographed in the rainforests of Panama, because the remote Waodani village in Ecuador could not sustain a film crew, “End of the Spear” uses Panamanian actors coached by Waodani warriors brought in for the project. Some of those warriors also appear in the film.

“End of the Spear” is so moving you will not believe it is director Jim Hanon’s first feature film. Every Tribe Entertainment, (www.everytribe.com), the production company behind it, was founded by Oklahoma City businessman Mart Green, who grew up in a home so conservative he had never been to a movie theater. When Mr. Green heard Steve Saint tell the story of his father and the other missionaries speared to death in 1956 and saw Mr. Saint introduce “Mincaye,” the man who killed Mr. Saint’s father, Nate, he immediately saw the power in putting the story on film.

As long as we are talking firsts, this is the first feature film by Every Tribe Entertainment and the first time the story has been told from the perspective of the Waodani. It is rated PG-13 for violence, but the violence is necessary to the story.

Mr. Hanon says the Waodani at first refused to cooperate. But when he told them about violence in American culture, like the Columbine shootings, they decided to participate. In a promotional DVD for the movie, Mincaye says, “The foreigners are living as angry and violent as we once did. But they could be living well. We changed. The foreigners [can change], too.”

Does reconciliation work? Shortly after the missionaries were killed, the wife of one of the slain men and the sister of another went to live with the tribe. Within two years, the tribal homicide rate dropped more than 90 percent. That beats any “tough on crime” approach in the United States.

Among many remarkable facts about this film is that except for the handful of American actors, the rest are amateurs. But the Panamanian Indians’ performances are as good and as convincing as anything you’ll see from a professional cast.

All films carry messages (“Brokeback Mountain” is not just a movie about cowboys). In recent years, with some notable exceptions, many messages have appealed to our lower nature.

“End of the Spear” is not only a true but a compelling story. For those, like me, who have longed to go to uplifting instead of bottom-feeding movies, this is one of the best.

“End of the Spear” is the latest in a steadily growing number of films taking on culture on its own turf. Instead of cursing darkness, more independent producers are beginning to make good movies (do not confuse “good” in content with bad in execution) with positive messages.

This is a story not only worth retelling but worth emulating. A liberal neighbor of mine has a sign in his yard that reads, “War is not the answer.” We can debate that, but we can’t debate reconciliation as the answer. It works, as this marvelous movie so beautifully and breathtakingly demonstrates.

Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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