TCC Films: The Mission

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The Mission

The Mission tells the tragic story of 18th century colonialism. In the film, Portuguese and Spanish colonialists have come to South America to establish a slave trade and plunder the land.  Others have come as missionaries to convert the natives to Christianity. In the process, the missionaries have themselves been converted. Living among the Indians they have come to fully recognize the dignity and equality of all people, regardless of race. Robert De Niro plays Mendoza, a heartless slave trader who kills his own brother in a fight and does not believe he is worthy of forgiveness. Jeremy Irons plays Fr. Gabriel, the priest who helps Mendoza find redemption. As part of his penance Mendoza must carry an unwieldy net full of heavy armor through the jungle and up a steep cliff. He falls again and again. When he reaches the top all of his hatred and greed have left him and the Indians he once enslaved cut the armor from his back and welcome him home. It is a powerful moment, which explains what penance is all about. Mendoza becomes a priest and begins working in the settlement run by Fr. Gabriel. The missionaries long for the Indians to be given the same rights as the Spanish and Portuguese, and try in vain to convince their superiors of this, but the various governments who profit from the slave trade find their vision dangerous and order the mission to be destroyed. The mission is their home and the priests never abandon it, but they struggle with whether or not to take up arms and fight back. This is an important film to watch and discuss with older kids.