The Mission Film Guide Directions

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The Mission Film Guide

You are to provide thoughtful responses to following questions: (yes, you’ll be graded on the completeness of your responses; your participation in our film discussion is also part of your grade). Write in English!


The film is set in the region of Northern Argentina, Paraguay, and Southern Brazil in the 1750’s. The Jesuit Order has come to build a series of missions among the Guaraní indians The Treaty of Madrid, which had been hammered out in 1750 by the Pope, the Spanish and the Portuguese, stipulates that this region, where seven Jesuit missions are operating, will be transferred from the Spanish to the Portuguese in exchange for other territories. These territorial conflicts were established by the Line of Demarcation created by the pope and agreed upon in the Treaty of Tordesilla.


  • Guaraní natives- played by the Waunana and the Onaní of Colombia

  • Father Gabriel, Jesuit priest played by Jeremy Irons

  • Rodrigo Mendoza- slave trader turned Jesuit missionary (Robert De Niro)

  • Don Cabeza- slave trader, plantation owner

  • Altamirano (“His eminence”) - a cardinal and papal legate (Pope’s representative to this region) sent in 1752 to oversee the transfer of this territory from the Spanish to the Portuguese.

Study Questions: Write these on loose-leaf.

1) What is the historical setting of this film? From whose point of view is the film made?

2) What is the role of the Spaniards in this film? The Portuguese? The Church? The Jesuits? The Guaraní? How does this film portray each of these groups of people? Who are the heroes, the villains, the victims? With which group do you sympathize? How accurate do you think the film's portrayal of these groups is?

3) How is life portrayed in the mission? Outside of it? Which is better? Safer? What is the role of the mission? How has the mission changed the lives, actions, dress, and thoughts of the Guaraní? Why don't the Guaraní want to go back to the forest?

4) Does this film portray the Guaraní as having an active role in the development of their history? Do their kings matter and make big decisions?

5) Examine power relations as depicted in this movie. How do the church, state, and indigenous peoples interact?

6) What is the role of music in the life of the Guaraní?

7) Discuss the evangelizing process (bringing native people to Christianity) as seen in the film (this is a big question, be expansive).

8) Discuss the economic activities and overall everyday life on the missions.
9) Discuss some of the reasons the Guaraní go and stay on these missions.
10) How and why do the Jesuits come to be involved in conflicts with the Portuguese?

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