The next important part of the film centers
around Betty Elliot and Rachel Saint, who learn
more Waodani language and return to the tribe
months after the killings at the request of
Dayumae, who had a burning desire to reach
her people with God's love. Amid controversy,
the women live with the tribe and are marveled
at because they do not seek revenge. They
teach that it is wrong to spear; that we must
forgive and rely on God's love and live in peace.
When an outbreak of polio occurs in a rival tribe
the women, Kimo, and other God-followers rush
to help, while the stubborn warrior Mincayani
clings to the old ways of toughness and
Sick people from the Anemenoni tribe are brought
to the Waodani village. Some people help them,
some do not. I did some creative work with this pic
in Photoshop to make it look like a painting.
Enlarge and check it out!
|"No one took my father's
life... he gave it."
I have heard some criticism of the film for not being stronger about delivering the "gospel message." But
the way I understand it is that the producers wanted to make a film that was (emotionally) accessible to a
wide, public market, so they strove to tell the story toward that end, and in my mind, struck the balance
beautifully. And really, this story doesn't need to verbally preach a gospel message... this amazing story
IS the gospel message.
Certainly the message of dedication to God is not without controversy, (whether from the Village Voice or
your own neighbor or a family member) but in this case, peace does prevail for the tribe, reducing the
homicide rate by 90%. And in years following, the stubborn warrior Mincayani, the one who speared Nate
Saint, becomes family with Steve Saint - and even a grandfather to Steve’s own children.
And as the Steve Saint character says so simply and poignantly at the end of the film, “I think my Dad
would have liked that.”
Never before have so many Waodani men and women lived to be grandparents. And one needs only to
catch a glimpse of the bright smile of Mincaye, or to see him dancing with Jesse Saint in "Beyond the
Gates of Splendor", to see that a new spirit resides in this warrior. The old man is gone, behold the new.
After ten weeks in the jungles and rivers of Panama, we “wrap” production and the crew scatters again to
their homes: grips and several camera people back to Canada, electricians to Oklahoma, make-up,
props, and our stunt coordinator back to Hollywood. The local Embera people, amazing actors all, return
to their villages, and the Panamanians head back to Panama City. I fly back to Oregon with an all-world
adventure of working on a movie set to bring one of the most incredible Christian stories of the last
hundred years to life on the big screen for theaters (and homes and churches) across the country.
I saw the film four times with friends and family and enjoyed seeing my tiny name among the many credit
lines - Still Photographer, Robert Bowling. I even got a standing ovation and total embarasment from my
friends Aron and Yvonne during one showing! But most gratifying of all was seeing so many names of
people I now count as friends as we toiled in the Panama jungle side-by-side to bring this story to life.
It is now out on DVD at most video stores for any and all to see. It may be a bit rough here and there,
and the subtitled dialogue often requires rapt attention, but overall, the cinematography is gorgeous, the
acting is genuine and engaging, and the message is more crucial than ever for our culture... and the
whole world to hear.
The film helps us feel the pain of violence and loss, and also what can happen when people forgive and
seek - even pursue - reconciliation; both much-needed if we are to change our own hot-headed culture,
bring healing to disputes in our own families, and, whether metaphorically or literally, do our utmost to
bring an End to the Spear.
God eventually breaks through to Mincayani through the witness of the missionaries, his own people, and
some tough circumstances. At Aunt Rachel's funeral many years later, we see a wiser, more peaceful
Mincayani. He and Steve then arrive at a crescendo of emotion on a canoe trip and the Spirit cuts
through the pain both men have felt for many years about the killings and the price that was paid.
The intense encounter at the river's edge did not
actually take place for the real Mincaye and Steve,
however the dramatic telling of the story needed a
point of contention and conclusion on-screen - a
fiery and gripping encounter between the two main
characters - literally at the point of the spear, where
this central issue of redemption is finally decided.
In Mincayani's world, the killing of the five men
should be avenged, he should be put to death. But
in the world of Nate Saint, and his son Steve, the
payment was made at the Cross, and Steve,
rendered so very human in this scene, breaks
through in agreement when he fiercely proclaims to
Mincayani, "No one took my fathers life... he gave it."
Here are a couple of pictures taken at the beginning of production during the Sunday morning
Bible studies at the Hotel Melia led by Steve Saint. At left are Jesse Saint and his grandfather
Mincaye, and at right are Ompodae, Mincaye and Steve Saint.
"He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose."
- Jim Elliot
For more information on this subject see:
End of the Spear - a major motion picture, now on DVD at video stores everywhere.
Beyond the Gates of Splendor - a documentary, at video stores everywhere.
End of the Spear, by Steve Saint Through Gates of Splendor, by Elizabeth Elliot
Jungle Pilot, by Nate Saint The Savage, My Kinsman, by Elizabeth Elliot
All photos copyright 2004, Every Tribe Entertainment. Photos by Robert Bowling