100 of 102 people found the following review helpful
It's rare when a genuinely inspiring, authentically spiritual true story breaks into the secular market place. BEYOND THE GATES OF SPLENDOR (Fox) is a critically acclaimed, word of mouth hit about the unexpected relationships families of murdered missionaries have with the native killers.
At its heart, it is about nothing less than sacrifice (human) and redemption (Godly).
This artistic, feature-length documentary story is set among the Ecuadorian Waodani Indians and the missionary men and women who gave their lives to reach them.
In late 1956, around this time of year, the Los Angeles Times featured headlines that said: "SAVAGES KILL FIVE MISSIONARIES." It was a big, brutal story that jolted the hearts of readers safely ensconced in the Eisenhower era.
I was not ready for the emotional intensity of this memorable story that begins with Waodani tribe person describing their way of life prior to the missionaries' arrival.
Primitive, archival home movies from the missionary families are intercut with sharp, colorful, contemporary interviews with the Waodani.
What is so astonishing is seeing how faith and forgiveness can bring love and healing in the most unexpected and extreme of circumstances.
This superb documentary is an adaptation of Elisabeth Elliot's book. A theatrical feature based on the murders and aftermath, "End of the Spear," will be released in 2006.
91 of 97 people found the following review helpful
on September 12, 2005
My family and I live in Panama and we were involved in the filming of "End of the Spear", a soon-to-be-released feature film made by the same production company and based on the stories in this documentary. I can testify to the very high caliber of the director and all the people involved in making these films. This documentary is well-made, and makes this true story of missionaries gripping and relevant. By the end you feel like you have met these men and understood their story.
It tells the story of 5 missionaries and their families. They were trying to reach a savage group of killers, the Waoranis of Ecuador, with the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Through a number of misunderstandings, the Waoranis killed these men, not understanding that they wanted to be friends. Years later several family members of the murdered missionaries tried again to reach the Waoranis. They lived among them and shared God's love with them, and today the Waorani culture and people have transformed. Today the murderers of those missionaries are like family members to the missionaries' families. The story is told through film footage, still photos and interviews with surviving participants. The Waoranis' interviews are in their language, with English subtitles.
This film is appropriate for all ages. It's refreshing to see the story of people so dedicated to an ideal that they will die for it. And then to see these former savage killers, together with the families of those they killed - wow, it's powerful stuff. Near the end of the shoot here in Panama, we spent an incredible evening meeting both the Waoranis featured in the documentary and several of the family members of the missionaries. The joy and love you see in this film is authentic. The forgiveness and genuine peace among these people, we saw it in them in person.
Be sure to go see "End of the Spear", due to be released in January 2006. A lot of the events in it are based on this documentary and the reminiscences you see in it.
49 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on November 13, 2005
"Beyond the Gates Of Splendor" is the incredible story of five missionary families who go to Ecuador in the 1950's. Their mission suffers a tremendous tragedy when four of the men decide to attempt to make contact with the Waodani tribe, a culture considered to be among the most violent in the world according to anthropologists. Three Waodanis come out to meet the men and the two groups interact with pleasure and curiousity. But when two of the tribal members, lovers whose relationship is opposed by the tribe, return they make up a story about being attacked by the "foreigners" in order to explain why they had gone off without their escort. The tribe then proceeds to attack and kill the four missionaries waiting by the river. Of course, their families are shattered by this tragedy. But, later on, two of the female missionaries return to Ecuador along with their children. They eventually befriend several of the Waodani women who had left the jungle and finally ended up going back to live with the Waodanis in their rainforest home for several years.
By the way, I am an atheist who feels that some missionary work can, in fact, have a largely negative impact on the indigenous peoples they are trying to convert. But even I was moved by the the sense of dedication and forgiveness shown by these women when they went to live with the same Waodanis who had murdered their husbands. But, even more so, I was interested in this movie from an anthropological point of view. It was fascinating to hear the comments of the anthropologists who had gone from working with one of the world's most peaceful tribes in Malaysia to now studying one of the most violent in the Waodanis. It also showed how much all human beings ultimately have in common, as the Waodanis interviewed were generally shown to be intelligent, sensitive people who had formed close friendships with the missionaries and their children despite the fact that the two cultures were so extremely different. It was also inspiring to see how, within a generation, the Waodanis had changed from being an extraordinarily violent society, based on blood feuds and vendettas, to an apparently peaceful one. They were even learning to use advanced technology, including one guy who had learned to fly and repair a small airpane which he used to transport his fellow Waodanis to a town with a hospital. I especially liked when the film showed the Waodanis watching old footage from World War II. The Waodanis considered the bomber pilots to be the worst type of "savages" because they were killing people that they didn't even know. In other words, don't get too self-righteous about our "advanced civilization" because even one of the world's most violent tribes is appalled by the methods of modern warfare.
Beyond the incredible story, this is also a well made and beautifully shot documentary which kept me intensely absorded the entire time. My wife, a latina who grew up in Ecuador, was also captived. She said, during her childhood, the Waodanis had a reputation among all Ecuadorians as an especially violent and aggressive people. In fact, one of her sisters, who was considered to have a bad temper, was nicknamed "Auca" (another name for the Waodanis) and the family would make fun of her by imitating Waodani dances when she would get mad. They even had a fake spear made up for her as a joke.
I would recommend this movie to anyone, but especially those interested in indigenous societies and the vast potentialites of human nature and human culture.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on October 7, 2005
This film is the best documentary out there.
Reluctant Cheesehead - This documentary won Audience Choice at the Palm Beach Internation Film Festival...a SECULAR event. Maybe you should watch it before you write a review? Your comments contradict what the indians themselves say in the film.
I am looking forward to the release of End of the Spear!!!
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on October 4, 2005
It's not very often that a movie (or documentary if you like) comes along with a story as powerful and beautifully told as Beyond the Gates of Splendor. At the time (January 1956) it seemed like such a tradegy and waste of life when 5 missionaries were killed in Ecuador at the hands of the Waodani. This film goes on to tell the incredible story since then of forgiveness and love on the part of the family members left behind. Not only is this an amazing story but the film is does exceptionally well weaving loss, tears, saddness with an occasional interjection of laughter to help the viewer through to the end. Don't miss buying this. It will impact how you see and respond to those who have wronged you.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on June 20, 2006
I saw this movie only a couple of months before I saw "End of the Spear". While they were both wonderfully done, I preferred this movie because I felt it told more of the story. End of the Spear was very "Hollywood" while "Beyond the Gates of Splendor" told the truth just how it is. Not that I am completely putting down "End of the Spear" - I truly enjoyed it. I was just surprisingly enough more drawn to the documentary-style of this movie! Excellent film! I would highly recommend it to everyone I know!!
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on January 6, 2006
The story of the killing of 5 American missionaries in 1956 by the Auca Indians has been told numerous times--and necessarily so, because as this documentary demonstrates, the story goes on AND recently new facts have emerged as to the motives of the killers. This is strong on human and cultural interest; it is somewhat passive on a making a clear presentation of the Christian message which was the motive behind the missionaries venture in the first place. However, the filming is excellent, blending archival footage and stills with extensive interviews of both Aucas and Americans involved in the affair and some great views from airplanes of the jungle area of Ecuador. This is a documentary which can generate a number of worthwhile discussions. Along with a full-length feature film, "At the End of the Spear," this documentary is being released in 2006 on the 50th anniversary of the martyrdoms that were international headline news at the time.
24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on February 6, 2006
"Beyond the Gates of Splendor" was worth watching but was confusing at times due to the number of people interviewed. I would have appreciated seeing the people's names on the screens each time they spoke throughout the documentary (noting the relationships to the other people would have been helpful, too). It is also interesting that there was very little mention of the theology of the missionaries or exactly what they attributed the change in the Auca Indians to. It seems strange to make a documentary about martyred missionaries and not talk more about their mission! There is more time spent interviewing anthropologists than ministers or theologians. I think that if the filmmakers would have slowed the pace of the narrative down and not tried to include as much as they did they could have made a harder hitting documentary that better addressed the question of why? instead of who? what? where? and when?
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on March 25, 2006
This is one of the best, if not THE best documentary I've ever seen (and I make documentaries for a living). The filmakers do an excellent job telling the story of these Christian missionaries from the middle of the 20th century who give an example to all of what Christianity is really all about.
"Beyond the Gates of Splendor" is the documentary version of the movie, "End of the Spear." While the movie was enjoyable, I actually liked the documentary better because it covered more indepth detail of the lives of this group of missionaries, and made you feel as if you got to know them. Through the personal testimonies of those interviewed, you truly come to care about the people in the story.
The story is powerful, sad, and might be considered tragic -- if not for the beauty of the Christian faith that shines through in this well made film.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on June 29, 2006
Beyond the Gates of Splendor relates the truth of the people and events while End of the Spear (the movie) is a Hollywood rendition of the story; truth is sacrificed for entertainment. I must add that the End of the Spear movie, as is typical of Hollywood productions, takes great liberty with the story related in the book by the same title. If you must choose between End and Beyond, choose the latter. It is better and more accurate to match the book, End of the Spear, with the documentary, Beyond the Gates of Splendor. I have little good to say of the movie, but the book and documentary should be read or viewed with caution; it may change your life. The story of sacrifice and devotion in the lives of so many caught up in God's sovereign love is best told through honest testimony than by vain entertainment. Truly inspiring and encouraging. I also strongly recommend the book, Jungle Pilot. It is the story of Steve Saint's father, Nate. Consider Jungle Pilot to be the prequel to Beyond the Gates of Splendor. Blessings all!