Produced by Every Tribe Entertainment, a Christian company dedicated to bringing inspirational stories to the screen, this ersatz jungle adventure is really a thinly disguised Sunday School lesson in faith, charity and the savagery of life without Christ. Based on the true story of Steve Saint and his father, Nate Saint, one of five American Christian missionaries slain by members of an Amazon tribe in 1956, the film is set in the thick jungles of Ecuador, where clans of the remote Waodani tribe have been warring among themselves. With a missionary's fervid determination, Nate (played here by Chad Allen), his wife, Marj (Cara Stoner), and a few other Christian couples hope one day to make contact with these isolated indigenous people who, they fear, may now be on the verge of extinction. Flying low over the jungle in his bright yellow plane, Nate finally spots a curious tribe member and soon begins dropping gifts as a prelude to making physical contact. Worried that his mission superiors will interfere, Nate keeps this momentous discovery from his sister, Rachel (Sara Kathryn Bakker), one of the few missionaries who can actually speak the Waodanis' language. For the past 13 years, Rachel has raised Dayumae (Christina Souza), a young Waodani woman who was forced to flee her family after her cruel mother threatened to bury Dayumae alive with her dying father, who was mortally wounded in yet another clan raid. Like many among the Waodani, however, Dayumae's warrior brother, Mincayani (Louie Leonardo), thinks that Dayumae has been killed and eaten by the white men, so when Nate and four of his fellow missionaries finally make contact with the Waodani on the banks of a remote river, they're deeply suspicious. Astonishingly, no one in the missionary group speaks the Waodani language, and a miscommunication concerning the fate of Dayumae has terrible consequences: All five members of the missionary group are slaughtered by the fearful Waodani. Once the fate of the missionaries becomes clear, however, the women step in. With astonishing courage, forgiveness and above all, faith, Rachel, Marj, 8-year-old Steve (Chase Ellison) and the other women widowed by the Waodani attack venture forth to meet their husbands' killers and offer to live among them in hopes of teaching them the virtues of a peace-loving Christian life. Writer-director Jim Hanon, a former ad exec who had previously dealt with the Saint family's story in his first film, the 2005 documentary BEYOND THE GATES OF SPLENDOR, never once mentions the name of Jesus Christ in the course of his film, but clearly He is what the Waodani, whose complex culture and religion are completely overshadowed here by their violence and pounding jungle drums, need in their lives. When a fearful Steve asks Nate whether he'd ever use a gun against the Waodani, Nate piously replies, "We can't shoot the Waodani. They're not ready for heaven. We are." Hanon neglects to mention more secular causes for the increase in killings among the threatened Waodani, such as outside oil exploration and the introduction of new diseases, all of which can be tied to the kind of foreign interference that's represented here only in its most benign form.
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- Released: 2005
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: Produced by Every Tribe Entertainment, a Christian company dedicated to bringing inspirational stories to the screen, this ersatz jungle adventure is really a thinly disguised Sunday School lesson in faith, charity and the savagery of life without Christ.… (more)