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When Worlds Collide is a long overdue study of a world-altering era, when the "Old World" met the "New World" through the voyages of Columbus. The film lifts its audience back and forth across the Atlantic, following a trail of imperial glory on both sides of the ocean. The journey begins in Granada, Spain, which Isabella and Ferdinand have conquered, and then takes us to Peru, to the lofty Incan spiritual retreat of the Machu Picchu, up the continent to the breath-taking Cerro del Tepeyac of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, across the Mississippi River valley with its great civilizations, and back again to Spain, to the magnificent Escorial, the palace of Philip II outside Madrid. Along the journey, we come to know many sophisticated, highly advanced cultures. We see the two worlds—old and new—meld to produce an entirely new culture, the "Latinos."
The stunning landscapes, beautiful people in colorful garb, and magnificent architecture on both sides of the Atlantic are captured beautifully in this film. But its strength lies in its ability to defeat a five hundred year old myth about indigenous societies of the Americas, a general myth that pictured the peoples of the Americas as uncivilized, bloodthirsty, backward savages, easily overcome by superior European armies. In this film, we meet highly advanced American cultures, from the Mayan Peninsula to Canada, and we see the many ways that these people outperformed European cultures in many arenas of discovery and creativity. While the Europeans were practicing ethnocide in the name of god and king, the American cultures were achieving remarkable agricultural innovations, erecting baffling architectural triumphs, and managing nature in innovative ways, which ultimately changed the way Europeans ate, built, and worked the land. Their rich colored dyes revolutionized the textile industry and changed the way artists painted. Their architectural feats remain unfathomable today. They genetically engineered new species of plants; they domesticated corn, tomatoes and potatoes from weeds, and they harvested more than any other agricultural producers in the world.
When Worlds Collide sets the record straight: it documents and celebrates the immense accomplishments of indigenous American cultures. It explains the enormous effects that New World ideas and products had upon the Old, from the New World gold and silver that stimulated European economies, to the imported sugar, chocolate, beans, peppers, corn, peanuts and so many more crops that revolutionized European cuisine. The film presents its audience an opportunity to rethink the imperial myths of "primitive" savagery. Thus the tragedy of the final chapter of this earth-shattering epoch hits hard the film's audience, raising again the baffling question: how did Europeans manage in good Christian conscience to slaughter, enslave and plunder the empires of these magnificent peoples of the New World?
© 2011 Wendy C. Hamblet
Wendy C. Hamblet, North Carolina A&T State University.
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