Apocalypto is an American film directed by Mel Gibson , released in 2006 .

The film is set in Mesoamerica , in the Yucatan peninsula , at the end of the post- classical era . It tells the story of a man struggling for his life and freedom during the decline of the Mayan civilization .


Jaguar’s paw is the son of the leader of a small forest tribe. His fate falls when their village is raided by Mayan warriors charged with bringing back captives for the next human sacrifices of their city. Taken prisoner and taken away by force, Jaguar’s Paw will do everything to survive and find his wife and son whom he has hidden during the attack on the village.

Technical sheet

Unless otherwise stated or supplemented, the information mentioned in this section can be confirmed by the IMDb database .

  • Title: Apocalypto
  • Director: Mel Gibson
  • Scenario: Mel Gibson and Farhad Safinia
  • Music: James Horner
  • Production Designer: Thomas E. Sanders
  • Artistic direction: Theresa Wachter
  • Costumes: Mayes C. Rubeo
  • Photography: Dean Semler
  • Sound: Benjamin L. Cook
  • Visual effects: Ted Rae and Keith VanderLaan ( animatronics and prosthesis )
  • Special Effects Companies: Asylum VFX, Visual Effects Svengali, Zen Haven Studios, Luma Pictures, LOOK! Effects, Filmworks / FX, MPFX Studios, Captive Audience
  • Editing: John Wright
  • Producers: Mel Gibson, Davey Bruce , Ned Dowd , Vicki Christianson and Farhad Safinia
  • Production Company: Icon Productions
  • Distribution Companies: Icon Productions and Touchstone Pictures
  • Budget: 40 million 1
  • Country of origin: United States
  • Language: Yucatec Maya
  • Format: Colors ( Deluxe ) – 1.85: 1 2 – DTS / SDDS / Dolby Digital sound – 35 mm ( Kodak ) 2 – Panavision filming
  • Genre : adventure
  • Duration: 138 minutes
  • Release dates 3 :
    •  United States and Canada : 
    •  France and French- speaking Switzerland :  
    •  Belgium :
  • Film banned under 12 years at its release in theaters in France 4 .


  • Rudy Youngblood : Jaguar’s Paw
  • Raoul Trujillo : Zero Wolf
  • Dalia Hernández : Seven
  • Jonathan Brewer : Blunt
  • Morris Birdyellowhead : Flinty Sky
  • Carlos Emilio Baez : Turtles Race
  • Ramirez Amilcar : Curved nose
  • Israel Contreras : Smoking toad
  • Israel Rios : Cocoa Leaf
  • Maria Isabel Diaz : the mother-in-law
  • Espiridion Acosta Cache : the old wise
  • Mayra Serbulo : the young woman
  • Iazua Larios : Flower of Heaven
  • Hiram Soto : Fish Hunt
  • Gerardo Taracena : Eye of the Middle
  • Rodolfo Palacios : Snake Ink
  • Ariel Galvan : Hanging Moss
  • Ricardo Diaz Mendoza : Roc Percé
  • Richard Can : Ten Pécaris
  • Lorena Heranandez : a girl from the village
  • Sayuri Gutierrez : the eldest
  • Fernando Hernandez : the High Priest


The film was shot in Catemaco in the state of Veracruz , and in the State of Campeche in Mexico 5 . The actors play the characters speaking in Yucatec Maya , spoken language even today by more than 750 000 people in Yucatán , Mexico 6 .

Apocalypto depicts unknown actors originating in Mexico , especially in the Yucatan Peninsula, but also Indians of the United States and Canada , as well as Native Los Tuxtlas and Veracruz

Mel Gibson financed his film himself. Touchstone Pictures has signed for distribution in certain markets. The film was scheduled for releasebut Touchstone Pictures pushed her back to because of heavy rains that disrupted filming in Mexico.

The Gibson made a pre-screening before two audiences composed mostly of Indians in the state of Oklahoma , the Riverwind Casino in Goldsby , owned by the Chickasaw Nation , and the Cameron University in Lawton 7 . He also did a pre-screening in Austin , Texas on September 24, 2006 together with a film actor, Rudy Youngblood 8

Box office

Box office France [ref. necessary] 
Dated Number of entries
January 10th to 16th 234,693
January 17 to 23 128,724
January 24 to 30 60,822
Box office United States [ref. necessary] 
Dated $ Recipe Cumulative $
08 to 10 December 06 $ 15,005,604 /
December 15 to 17, 06 $ 8,008,126 $ 28,209,532
December 22 to 24, 06 $ 2,868,725 $ 34,592,881
December 29 to 31, 2006 $ 3,264,798 $ 42,654,236
January 5 to 7, 07 1,762,525 $ $ 47,335,193


Box office United States [ref. necessary] 
Dated Number of entries Cumulative entries
January 10 11,391 /
January 10th to 16th 79,844 /
January 17 to 23 44,971 124,815
January 24 to 30 23,344 148,159


According to E. Michael Jones, the film is partially designed as a political allegory about civilizations in decline 9 .

Movie clip

The title: Mel Gibson titled his film Apocalypto, because he believed that the word meant “new beginning”, as he told journalists 10 before the film was released, when it is actually of a Greek verb meaning I reveal (apocalypse = revelation).

The film begins with this quote from Will Durant :

“A great civilization is conquered from the outside only if it is destroyed from within. ”

During a game of tapir hunting in the Mesoamerican jungle , Jaguar Paw ( Rudy Youngblood)), his father Ciel de Silex (Morris Birdyellowhead), and their hunting companions meet a column of frightened and traumatized refugees. The leader of the procession then tells that their lands were ravaged, and with the permission of Ciel de Silex, it continues its way through the forest. When Patte de Jaguar returns to the village, Ciel de Silex asks his son not to let the fear of the procession infiltrate him. At night, the elder of the tribe tells the villagers a fable of a man who dangerously never extinguished his desire, despite the capacities of the animal kingdom. The locals follow the story with dance and music, letting Jaguar Patte meditate.

The next morning, Jaguar’s Paw wakes up with a start after a nightmare. While everyone sleeps, Jaguar’s Paw sees individuals break into the village, setting houses on fire with torches. The attackers, led by Zero Wolf (Raoul Trujillo), attack the villagers and capture as many as possible. Jaguar’s leg runs off with his pregnant wife, Seven ( Dalia Hernández ) and his son, Turtle Race, and hides them in a well (probably a chultun ) by making them descend with the help of a liana. Jaguar’s leg returns to defend his village but he is captured with the rest of his tribe.



According to Rotten Tomatoes the film received a warm welcome rather favorable film critics 11 .

First : “Driven by insane energy, Gibson offers an extremely pessimistic view of an inherently barbaric humanity. […] Equipped with an ultra light digital camera, it reinvents for today a form of primitive and visceral cinema with totally convincing results 12 “.

Paris Match : Alain Spira “Apocalypto is, first and foremost, a big popular film, some scenes of which may lend a smile (…) but which, if you let yourself go, guarantees you an original and eventful trip rather exceptional” 13 .

The Figaroscope : “With its sumptuous exoticism, both precise and timeless, Apocalypto is a powerful and spectacular parable on an end of civilization. But amid decadence and bloody chaos, we are witnessing the birth of a hero 14 “.

Télé Cinéobs ( Le Nouvel Observateur ): “an extraordinary story of adventures, whose harrowing but necessary violence reaches more than once a magnitude to which the American cinema has hardly accustomed us ” 15 .

Télérama : «New butcher shop signed Mel Gibson , among the Maya . Attention turnip 16 . ”


The film was criticized by the magazine Archeology , for his violent description of a brutal Mayan society, neglecting the “scientific achievements” and “deep spirituality” of civilization 17 .

Mayan leaders consider that “scenes of Maya with piercings on the bone propagate stereotypes about [their] culture. Also, a human rights activist, Lucio Yaxon, says that “the director is saying that the Mayans are savages. » 18

In Guatemala , the official representative against Racism said the movie was racist and contributes to the demonization of indigenous culture 19 . Juan Tiney, of the peasant and indigenous coordinating council of Guatemala 20criticized the film saying that “the level of violence in the film might suggest that the Mayans were a violent people that only the arrival of the Spaniards had saved, when history shows that it’s the contrary”.


Juan Mora Catlett accuses Mel Gibson have copied at least some visual elements, citing the example of the Indians painted blue from head to foot 20 and of plagiarizing some scenes of his film Retorno a Aztlán dating from 1991 21 .


Gibson wanted to give his film a certain authenticity, and for this appealed to Richard Hansen , archaeologist and expert in Mayan civilization . Despite this deposit, the historicity of the film has been controversial.

Thus, for Mark McGuire , the film contains a number of objects unknown to Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, such as metal javelin spikes. The Mayan city of mixing details from different Mesoamerican cultures separated in space and time 22 : temples, for example, are of the form of those of Tikal located in the central lowlands classic style while they are decorated with newer stylistic elements of Puuc style from northwestern Yucatan. Arcade mural includes elements of Mayan codex combined with elements of Bonampak murals(more than 700 years old at the time of the action of the film) and murals of San Bartolo (whose production dates back to approximately 1500 years before the time of the action of the film). Elements of Mesoamerican civilizations from centuries distant and not belonging to the Mayan civilization, such as those of the Mexico Valley ( Teotihuacan , Aztecs ), have also been added to this anachronistic jumble.

Robert Carmack , professor of anthropology at the University of Albany, said that “it’s a great mistake – almost a tragedy – that this film presents the Mayan civilization as well. » 22

Edgar Martin del Campo, his colleague at the same university, asserts the erroneous nature of certain scenes, saying among other things “that the Mayans knew astronomy and would not have been frightened by an eclipse as described in the film. ” 22 . As early as 1952, the Guatemalan novelist Augusto Monterroso went in the same direction, in his new L’Eclipse , ironically about the sacrifice of a Spanish monk who tried to use this deception to escape captivity.
In fact, nothing indicates in the film scene that the priest had not planned the eclipse, the organization of the ceremony whose summit is reached during the eclipse rather indicating the opposite. At the beginning of the eclipse, the officiant turns to the sovereign, who nods, after which the two men exchange a smile. The eclipse of the sun is followed the next night by the full moon, which is an absurdity since it can occur only 14 days after an eclipse.
Predicting an eclipse to scare a society considered unjustly primitive has become a cliché of adventure stories,Jules Verne also used an eclipse in The Children of Captain Grant as Hergé in the Sun Temple . This cliché goes back to a real adventure that happened to Christopher Columbus : on February 29, 1504 , during his fourth voyage to the New World , the navigator, who was in a desperate situation in Jamaica in the face of hostile natives , took advantage of his knowledge of a total moon eclipse imminent to make them the prediction that it would make the moon disappear from the sky if they did not collaborate. Terrorized by the eclipse, the natives agreed to help her 23.

Stephen Houston , a professor of anthropology at Brown University , said the victims of Mayan human sacrifice were kings, members of royal families, and other high ranking nobles. “They did not run after ordinary people to sacrifice” (see the Washington Post of December 15, 2006).

Karl Taube , a professor of anthropology at the University of California at Riverside , objected about the huge pit filled with corpses. “We have no evidence of mass graves.” Professor Taube also objected that the high number of slaves is not proven.

Zachary Hruby, UC Riverside, deplores the use of the Yucatec language, because it gives a veneer of authenticity to a film that takes so many untimely freedoms on the subject. More specifically, these freedoms concern the mode and extent of the sacrifices, the presentation of the Mayan villagers as isolated people living in the forest, the chronological compression of the highly urbanized classical terminal era and the late post-classical era mainly composed of village dwellings 24 .

Also very critical of the film’s violence, Marie-Charlotte Arnauld, research director at the CNRS, a Mayan archeologist at the “Archeology of the Americas” laboratory, says that “the film is based on some documentation. I was not overly shocked by reconstituting 25 “.

Notes and references

  1. ↑ (in) Sheet of the film  [ archive ] on Box Office Mojo.
  2. ↑ a and b (en) Technical specifications of the film  [ archive ] on IMDb .
  3. ↑ (en) Release dates of the film  [ archive ] on IMDb.
  4. ↑ Sheet of the film  [ archive ] on AlloCiné .
  5. ↑ Information visible in the credits of the film.
  6. ↑ Actors spoke Yucatec Maya language, Bprophets-Apoc  [ archive ]
  7. ↑ (in) Associated Press, ” Gibson takes ‘Apocalypto’ to Oklahoma ”  [ archive ] , on news.yahoo ,(accessed September 24, 2006 )
  8. ↑ (in) Mel campaigns for new movie, Against War in Iraq ”  [ archive ] , Reuters, (accessedSeptember 25, 2006 )
  9. ↑ (in) E. Michael Jones , Abortion and Human Sacrifice in the Americas ( read online  [ archive ] )
  10. ↑ (en) Making Yucatec Maya “cool again”  [ archive ] on Language Log.
  11. ↑ RottenTomatoes.com  [ archive ] – Apocalypto, “Critical consensus. “
  12. ↑ Gérard Delorme, ” Critics of the film ”  [ archive ] first .
  13. ↑ Paris Match , Alain Spira
  14. ↑ Figaroscope , Marie-Noëlle Tranchant, 10 January 2007, Le Figaro – Cinema in Paris with Figaroscope  [ archive ] .
  15. ↑ Bernard Achour (TéléCinéObs), ” Mel Gibson’s controversial new film ”  [ archive ] .
  16. ↑ Cecile Mury Télérama o 2974, 13 January 2007, Apocalypto – Movie – Cinema – Télérama.fr  [ archive ]
  17. ↑ Archeology.org  [ archive ] – “Is Apocalypto Pornography? – Archeology , December 5, 2006
  18. ↑ “Gibson movie angers Mayan groups”  [ archive ] , BBC, December 8, 2006
  19. ↑ Mel Gibson No. asistirá al estreno su película “Apocalypto”  [ archive ] La Segunda Source: Orbe
  20. ↑ a and b [Con Maya Divided in Mexico Apocalypto ] – La Crónica de Hoy
  21. ↑ cineasta Mexican acusa was Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto plagiarism por [ archive ] – La Crónica de Hoy
  22. ↑ a , b and c (in) Mark McGuire , ‘ ‘ Apocalypto ‘a pack of inaccuracies ” , San Diego Union Tribune , (read online  [ archive ] )
  23. ↑ Columbus and the eclipse providential .  [ archive ]
  24. ↑ (in) Hruby, Zachary, ” Apocalypto: A New Begining gold Step Backwards ”  [ archive ] , on Mesoweb News & Reports, (accessed December 12, 2006 )
  25. ↑ ” Interview of Charlotte Arnauld, collected by Matthieu DURAND the 09/01/2007 at 18h42 on [[The Chain Info | LCI]] ”  [ archive ] .

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