Natacha 18. September 2011 um 19:21 Uhr

The story of the discovery of America (starting in South America) contains a lot of aspects. There are the economical, adventurous, ideological, moral, religious aspects (et al.). In this paper I want to analyse the ambiguous heroism of Columbus, that started as a dream of an individual very stout and religious navigator and became a collective tragedy: the death, torture and humiliation of thousands of native Indians.

The original aim of the enterprise seems not clear. Out of the journal of Columbus we may understand that he went to the Indies to visit the Grand Khan and bring this king of the city of Quingsay (Hangzhou) letters related to the orthodox (catholic) faith from the king and queen of Spain. But the grant he received from Ferdinand and Isabella to realize this project refers to a mission to ‘discover and to gain certain islands and mainland in the Ocean Sea’. In his journal he makes it quite clear that he has (at least) two objects. He wants to pay a visit to the Grand Khan but at the same time he is looking for gold and new territories to enrich Spain. But behind these two goals he has another less obvious one and that is spreading the Christian religion and getting enough money for the crown of Spain to be capable later on to organise a Crusade to regain the Holy Land.

The instant Colón (the self chosen nickname of Columbus) has arrived in the Indies and has met the indigenous population he is overwhelmed by the beauty of the nature and the people living on the islands. At the same time he realizes the wealth and great prestige these new territories might bring to Spain and the monarchy. He gets more and more obsessed by the gold he is sure to find, but also with the conversion of the inhabitants. Colón is a strict religious man and very faithful to the Spanish Crown but in his journal he seems to get subjected to delusions of grandeur. As for all man in the Middle Ages God is at the centre of his universe, second comes the Sovereign. I want to postulate that Colón sees himself as ‘third man’ and at the end even equal to them. In this way it is striking how often he uses the pronoun ’I’ in his journal. Although not scientifically grounded it seems to me a sign of his extreme high sense of self.

In the film Tambien la Iluvia about the first voyage of Columbus to the New World and his subjugation of the indigenous population there is a striking parallel between the ambiguous attitude of Columbus and the makers of the film to the population. The filmmakers want to focus on the priests Las Casas and Montesinos, who were the first to denounce the oppression of the Indian population by the Spanish invaders. But, first contradiction, Bolivia has been chosen to make the film because of the fact that it is a poor country the costs will be lower. When the population is fighting against the local rulers to regain free water the filmmakers don’t show any interest. Their film is all that matters to them. They pretend they want to show another view of the discovery of America but they are not concerned by the position of the real people living in Bolivia. Even at the end when the producer takes risks by rescuing the actress who got injured during the strike for water he keeps his attitude of superiority.

In Marvelous Possessions Greenblatt suggests that Colón uses the word ‘marvelous’ in the journal to conceal his greed for gold and the cruelties towards the Indians. We may also argue that the function of this word is to persuade the readers that his enterprise was – after all – approved and bestowed by God who had chosen him. Greenblatt relates how on his last voyage to the New World, Colón, alone and ill, hears a voice that tells him about his own name that sounds ‘marvellously in the land’. At that moment Colón may be a bit crazy as Greenblatt points out, but was the voice that connects his name to the New Land, not at the heart of his dream from the start?

Sharlene Alam 18. September 2011 um 22:40 Uhr

In the Guise of Helping Others

In the movie Tambien la lluvia by Icair Bollain, many parallels can be drawn between the character of the producer, Costa and the Spanish colonizer, Christopher Columbus. In the essay Marvelous Possessions, Stephen Greenblatt writes about the many paradoxes that Columbus faces when he colonizes South America, one of which he calls “liberating enslavement” (Greenblatt 96). In Parallel, Bollain’s character, the producer, Costa is faced with a catch 22, which I am going to call Hollow Fame. These two characters, have many things in common, one of which is that, both personas are haunted by moral dilemmas, which “seem” to have no solutions. In this paper I want to analyze one of the outcomes of the battle between the self and the other that is faced by both Columbus and Costa.

Greenblatt writes that Columbus is faced with the paradox of “liberating enslavement” because on one hand, he is enslaving the natives and on the other hand he is giving them religious freedom. The natives are all at once, being used as “beasts of burden” (Greenblatt 96) by the Spaniards and attaining religious freedom by becoming Christians. Columbus is liberating them from their pagan beliefs into Christianity, which is “a metamorphosis from inhumanity into humanity” (Greenblatt 96), yet, at the same time he is also enslaving them by turning them into “Christian” slaves to the Christian masters. In parallel, Bollain’s character, Costa is well aware of the Water Wars that are going on in Bolivia and also the price of water, which the citizens (his actors) cannot afford. Yet, he still cheats them, for his own monetary gain, by paying them only two dollars for their service. In one hand he is giving them eternal fame by casting them in a movie and on the other hand, he is paying them so little that they cannot even afford to buy water (the price of which has increased 300%). This is the hollow fame he is bestowing upon his actors; a fame with which they cannot even survive because their paycheck cannot afford the basis of life i.e. water. Fame is meant to bring both notoriety and money but in this case, fame has not even brought them sufficient money to survive. In both cases of Columbus and Costa, we see oxymorons: “liberating enslavement” (Greenblatt 96) and hollow fame, both constructed for the sake of personal gain.

It seems that in the battle between the self and the others, the self always seems to choose itself over others. In this particular case, Columbus chooses his own material and spiritual gain by strategically cheating the others. He gained the slaves, their land and everything in it, and also gained spiritually by converting masses of people into Christianity. Thus being in the good books of his country, church and God and eventually gaining a seat in Heaven because of his contributions to Christianity. Costa chose his own material and spiritual gain by cunningly cheating the others. He saves a lot of money by hiring the Bolivians to act as extras as opposed to actors of American nationality. At some point in the movie, he even says that the Bolivians will slave away for mere two dollars and still “feel like kings.” He gains materialistically because when and if the movie is released and is a success, he will gain a lot of money and will be known forever for doing justice to the South American people who were wronged by Columbus; thus making him eternally famous.

Their moral dilemma was a dilemma of whether to choose the self or the others and in both cases, they chose themselves. Although, in the movie, Costa goes though a momentary heroic lapse by saving the life of one of the extras, Belena. However he is quick to claim that if he doesn’t save the child, he will “never forgive himself.” Why does he need to forgive himself? For cheating the Bolivian actors for his own gain? Or does the above mentioned statement try show that he saved the child in the guise of helping the other, but in fact, he did it for himself?

Leonie M. 19. September 2011 um 8:20 Uhr

Things we do not want to hear

Let’s start with the beginning. O hell no, in literature studies we do not believe in beginnings. Nor in endings. Okay. Let’s start with the most hypocritical part of the film I will discuss: Kosta, the producer, has just saved the life of Belén, a young girl performing a role in his film on Christopher Columbus. After having brought the girl to the hospital, our Kosta sits in his taxi to the airport – just lay back, relax, you will be leaving this country very soon. Belén’s father, the even so charismatic Daniel, gave Kosta a gift: a small bottle of water.
“Yaku”, (the indigenous word for ‘water’) says Kosta in a soft voice, while he looks in the driving mirror, a philosophical expression embellishing his face. We zoom out. The hero has been saved after having saved the little girl. Things as they should be, isn’t it? Now, we can go home again. Now, we can go home again while people keep dying and struggling in the heat and dust of South-America.
Things as they should be? The end of Iciar Bollain’s film Tambien la lluvia (Even the rain) causes serious trouble. Why is Kosta suddenly portrayed as a hero here? The only way I can explain it so I can live with it, is that Bollain is here making an ironic statement.
Maybe. Probably. On the second hand, I could also argue that an ironic ending is even worse. After a two-hour during movie full of despair, hatred and misery, what we get is… this? White man smiling in taxi? Is this what you wanted to tell me? I already knew the world is a place for lies and hypocrisy, if that is what you meant.
Maybe we need to look further. Tambien la lluvia is, in spite of the tirade I wrote above, a movie that shows very well some problems concerning colonialism, neocolonialism and the difficulties that is entrained by such terms or concepts. The film tells the story about a Spanish filmcrew making a documentary on Christopher Columbus, “discovering” the Indies. During the making of the film, the water wars break out and several actors (Indian locals) get involved. The filmcrew first forbids the actors and especially Daniel to join the demonstrations, because he might get hurt in the demonstrations, which actually happens. The demonstrations quickly turn into bloody fights between the Bolivian police and the indians demanding their water. Daniel gets hurt. Daniel is put in jail. The filmcrew bribes the director of the jail, Daniel gets out of jail. The film can continue. The film can continue till the situation in Bolivia gets too dangerous and the filmcrew wants to go home – to safe Spain. Water or war; who cares? We want our movie. And it is precisely because of the movie and finishing it that Sebastían stays, alone. Kosta drives Belén to the hospital and is suddenly a hero. The movie film probably never be finished; but well, there was a start, there was a making of something.

And what was it all for? The making of. We have to end what we start; we have to start something. I would say: Yes, but not at any price.
When Stephen Greenblatt argues in his article ‘Marvelous possessions’ describing the ‘discovery’ of America in 1492, that Columbus is, when taking possession of the Indies, ‘emptying out the category of the other (Greenblatt 87), we can ask ourselves the question if the filmcrew I just described, or you, reader, and I, writer, are not doing exactly doing the same. When the occasion presents itself; I mean. Being evil or colonial is not especially recommended these days. But it is nevertheless true and a deception we should fight; we should not, like Sebastian and his colleagues, drink champagne while people are screaming for water outside. We should stop pretending to be deaf. We should not say: “Well, let them eat cake”, as one of the filmcrew says – in an ironic way, again. At least not when the reason “they” eat cake (or do not have any water) is partly our fault, too.
Anna 19. September 2011 um 8:46 Uhr

“Presently many inhabitants of the island assembled. What follows is in the actual words of the Admiral in his book of the first navigation and discovery of the Indies. “I,” he says, “that we might form great friendship, for I knew that they were a people who could be more easily freed and converted to our holy faith by love than by force, gave to some of them red caps, and glass beads to put round their necks, and many other things of little value, which gave them great pleasure, and made them so much our friends that it was a marvel to see” (37)
When we read a passage like this from the journal of the first voyage of Columbus to what he thought were the Indies, we can’t help but be astonished at his attitude towards the natives of those lands. Throughout the entire document Columbus remains to see the natives as a form of life lesser than him. He sees in them the potential to be easily converted, because they do not have a religion, and he thinks of them as capable of learning to speak, he does not believe they have a language. They are treated like animals and rewarded with small things like glass beads and red caps. This seems to us strange and outdated.
Yet if we compare this 500 year old document to the film También la lluvia (Even the Rain, 2010), we notice nothing much has changed. The film within the film is being shot in Bolivia, because of the cheap labor available there (extra’s are only being paid two dollars a day). También la lluvia is trying to show us that the conditions the poor Bolivian natives are in are not much different from those of the natives Columbus ‘discovered’. Though this is a noble goal, and the filmmakers should be praised for making their point, questions can be asked about the way this is done.
No one expects Columbus natives to have a voice or a way of telling their side of the story. They where simply not heard, let alone documented from any other perspective than that of the Western conquerors. But natives today should be expected to have a voice of their own. Or do they?
También la lluvia raises questions on the treatment of the Bolivian natives, but does this solely through a western perspective. The makers interpret the whole thing from their own point of view. They impose thoughts on the natives, the real filmmakers as well as the fictional ones. Like Columbus who was only able to interpret what he saw through himself, the unknown is made known by chancing meaning. Even when the film is trying to make a point and show us nothing much has changed and the natives are still being suppressed and exploited. Nothing much has changed indeed, also in the way of telling. The natives still don’t have a voice. They are still being interpreted through others, and thereby remain ‘other’. They still need to be saved by the white man (this is almost literary shown near the ending of the movie, when Costa has to save Daniels daughter). They seem to need to rely on him to tell their story and give them a voice.
But the western men don’t understand the situation anymore than Columbus did. As Columbus thought he could save them by giving them Christianity and at the same time made them into slaves, the filmmakers of También la lluvia seem to think they can help the natives by showing the situation without the actual perspective of the people this is all about, and thus turn them into tools.

LeonieV 19. September 2011 um 9:05 Uhr

Columbus, an Artist

Columbus is famously known for his heroic discovery of America. He went were no man went before. But there are but very few who know him for his secondary occupation. You may probably have wondered about what he must have been doing when he came to this unknown islands. He must have had a lot of spare time on this tropical beaches. Did he just lay around in a hammock, sipping from some coconut while getting a tan, occasionally discovering some shady parts behind lines of trees? Not quite so, Columbus was constantly occupied with his second trade. He by chance happened to be a great artist. And a quite influential one too.

Already on board of his ship his genius mind began to wrap around his surroundings. Where the normal seaman could just see nothing but see. Columbus already started to marvel about the abundance of weed in the water around the ship. Some fresh, some old, and even some having fruit!

When arrived on land he made some splendid figures of the island. There were trees in all kinds of shapes, some like canes, some like mastic trees, others with up to six kinds of different leaves and branches. The fish have all different colors, and there was one that looked like a pig! There were whales and mermaids, who really weren’t as pretty as they say..
One has to admit that Columbus really gives a great and complete image of the land. The comparing everything to known objects makes it easy for us, the audience, to make a proper idea of how this far away island must look like. Or even feel like, for he constantly gives footnotes on the atmosphere, which is on moments as hot as the air in Andalusia in April, or as clear as the air in the month of May in Castille.

And when he finally came upon some Indians, he instantly grabbed for his crayons. He was very specific in his use of colors. ‘They are of the color of the canary Islanders, neither black nor white’. He decided they had pretty bodies, which he could examine very thoroughly cause they were all naked. Their hair is like was like that of horse’s. And what a coincidence, the Indians seem to have artistic ambitions themselves too, painting their own body’s black or red of even white. This must have come in handy for Columbus.

It’s a shame this work of art by Columbus is the only thing that remains of this marvelous place. For today it’s no longer a far away exotic country. It’s only one plane ticket away, and what you will find there is almost an exact copy of your own western environment. Nature as well as the Indians have been expelled. As all of us will know, in a not so friendly way. We actually have diminished the Indian population to the point at which they are very close to distinction.

How could such a great genocide could have happened? And that while we had this beautiful work of art that told us only about how pretty the unknown islands were? Well, in fact this very work of art by Columbus could have made such a cruel history possible. For in his work, the Indians were not considered fellow human beings. They were but the funny moving objects in a great work of art made by the hands of a western seaman. Brushed on this painting Columbus drew of the island, not only in his mind, but also in his words sent back to Spain. And tragically, in being only figurines, whether made by crayons or words, they were very easy to erase.

Athena Z 19. September 2011 um 10:05 Uhr

Wonder World

“They sell our rivers against our will. They sell our wells, our lakes and even the rain that falls on our heads. By law!” that is what Daniel, one of the natives, says to his people at a demonstration, in the movie “Even the rain” which follows a crew shooting a film about Columbus in Bolivia at the time of Water Wars. As we see scenes and images dissolve one into the other like fluid and at the same time riffle through Columbus’ “Journal”, we watch past, present (and even future) merge and perennial truths emerge. “Humanity the swank, humanity the zilch!” a friend once wrote…humanity! a creature of an inglorious nature. Has there been any substantial change in the years that have passed?
Reading the “Journal” we observe the magnificent mastery of discourse and the abuse of language in the name of, as Greenblatt in his “Marvelous Possessions” correctly states, profit and fame. Columbus is like a child placed in Paradise: everything is new, beautiful and wonderful! Yet, is his writing genuinely innocent? Greenblatt mocks Columbus’ speech acts of proclaiming, naming, witnessing, and recording. Aren’t they all mobilized to serve one and only purpose? Doesn’t Columbus’ discourse and formalism aim at the fulfilling of his devout wish? Greenblatt exposes the prank and the ugly truth of colonialism covered under the veil of Christianity, thus revealing both Columbus’ and Spain’s greedy face. Still, greed seems to comprise an indelible quality in human beings. Whether it is Colonialism or, Neocolonialism, as post-colonial critics term it, the actions dictated by greed and politics only cause abomination and vomit. Do we spot any difference in the abuse of Columbus’ “beasts of burden” and the movie´s natives who, as Costa, the producer, says “with two fucking dollars a day (they) feel like kings” while at the same time are deprived of water? “Wonderful! Just wonderful! Fucking Great!” Daniel responds. The historical parallels are innumerous and surpass the boundaries of the movie. Still let’s restrict ourselves within its limits.
The movie moves in three osculating circles baring one common core: that of human exploitation and abuse. Three stories repeating the same facts: the actual story of Columbus and the atrocities that occurred during America’s discovery and colonialism, the manipulation and oppression of neocolonialism conducted by the government and the multinational companies in Bolivia and the crew’s shrewd plan to film the movie on a minimum budget by taking advantage of both the cheap labor and the beautiful landscape. Aren’t all figures directed by their “private appetites and profits” as mentioned in the movie? Aren’t all actions conducted in the name of either gold or capital and Jesus Christ?! Raise your glasses but before we drink lets contemplate on who actually is “in mortal sin”!
Columbus gives the “beasts” the fake promise of their souls’ salvation through Christianity in exchange for commodities and more precisely for the gold in their land. He obviously craves for power and wealth and thus molds language according to circumstances and interests. Similarly, the Minister in the movie is very well informed about his surrounding reality for he eloquently states that “If we give them one inch, these Indians will drag us to the Stone Age” and sarcastically replies “Don’t we all (have a low budget)?”. We must at least appreciate his cruel honesty compared to the hypocrisy of the crew filming the movie.
Words are not innocent and actions are prescribed by individual desires and often even regrets. Costa’s final act of helping Daniel’s daughter, who’s been injured during the “domestic riots” for a simple yet precious demand for water, is not pure. It substitutes for his guilt of an abandoned daughter of his own and thus is not selfless. Columbus is greedy and self-centered aiming only at the fulfillment of his ultimate dream: to conquer Jerusalem. It’s interesting when Costa asks Anton, the actor playing Columbus, why he drinks so much. Maybe even more interesting is the reply he receives: “Because…I am always…but always, so…thirsty”!
If there is one thing we have learned from history and know from experience… that is that greed like thirst is hard to satisfy. Aren’t the endless pages of arbitrary claims and proclamations, violence and violation of human rights, of oppression and ferocities, all filled with blood and gore? Whether the name is colonialism, neo colonialism or any kind of political ideology the truth remains one and the same. History is woven with the most elaborate threads of linguistic omnipotence and its fabric is more obscure that night itself, thus wrapping the real nature of events using either religious or political fabrications.
How arbitrary is the separation of cannibals and those civilized? Aren’t the latter worse than cannibals when they seize, slaughter, rape and rip the natives off and for their “marvelous possessions” only because of their thirst for gold? The meaning of the words shifts and is reversed depending on the quality of motives. It’s sad to realize that in this wonder world things only mask themselves, for as it seems people can scrub neither the greed not the lust off their skins! Sad…yes Sad but True!

Jesse 19. September 2011 um 10:21 Uhr

Tambien la Lluvia is a story of two men making a movie to show the horrors of Colón’s conquest, but the movie shows that these men are committing some of the same wrongs. In “Marvelous Possessions,” Stephen Greenblatt analyzes the ways in which Colón takes possession of land, and renames the natives. These ideas of taking possession and renaming are prominent themes in Tambien la Lluvia. We see the government taking possession of the water supply simply by making a proclamation that it is theirs to take. We see unfair economic exchange. And, we see people renamed for their roles in a movie.
By casting people in their movie, Costa and Sebastian are, in a sense, renaming and taking possession. It is also a similar exchange to Colón trading worthless trinkets for items of value. Having received a role in the movie (a renaming), and two dollars (a pittance to Costa and Sebastian), these people must offer something of value in return. They must now play an integral role in the movie, and they must play that role regardless of their own desires. Sebastian doesn’t understand why the women won’t pretend to drown their babies. He has given them a role to play, a new name, and they aren’t acting out what that new name represents. He has a “complete indifference to the consciousness of the other” (Greenblatt, 87). It isn’t their “consciousness” that is important; it is only important that they live up to the name given to them.
Daniel is renamed Hatuey for the purposes of the film. Having been renamed, Daniel’s own life becomes unimportant to Sebastian and Costa. Costa offers Daniel money to stop fighting for the rights of his people (exactly what Hatuey is supposed to be doing). Daniel accepts the money, but does not say he agrees to Costa’s terms. Costa assumes Daniel agrees. He sees this as an “absence of contradiction” (Greenblatt, 86), and therefore a right to take possession of Daniel. Costa convinces himself that this is a verbal contract, a “legal claim” (Greenblatt, 86). In this instance the amount of money is more significant than two dollars, but Costa is, in essence, asking Daniel to give up life (Daniel has said that “water is life”) in exchange for something far less valuable.
Costa and Sebastian both represent different aspects of Colón. Costa is making this movie for financial gain, and tells his colleagues how much money he is saving just as Colón wrote about how much gold we was supposedly finding. Sebastian sees the making of his movie as a moral victory just as Colón made “the claim of a ‘great victory’” (Greenblatt, 86). Through their ignorance of these similarities, which seem to be the point of the film, Costa and Sebastian become the person whom they wish to defame. Just as Colón convinced himself he was doing good works, Costa renames himself the hero in the end, and Sebastian renames himself the martyr because he has sacrificed himself for the sake of the movie. They will both live on believing that they have done a great deed, but their two dollars of good deeds aren’t worth the lives they traded.

Anne H 19. September 2011 um 12:42 Uhr

Willful blindness

When Columbus first sees land, he is sure it must be the goal of his journey: the Indies. His thesis did not need to be proved right and he sees no reason to doubt whatsoever. He does not seem to have the capability to doubt anything he does or thinks. He is a man with one mission; the mission of God. This mission circumscribes everything that needs to be done to spread the christian belief. His beliefs contain at once the means and the end, which are interchangeable, the means to get where he is going are just as important as the goal itself, as long as they get him there.
It seems that everything Columbus does and sees is interpreted as knowledge he has beforehand, given from above. So when he sees a manatee it is in fact a mermaid, they were just not quite as attractive as he expected and as was commonly assumed. His unshakable certainty is off course questionable, to say the least, but it does get him what he wants and when he wants it, be it believes, be it material needs. So his needs can be divided in two: matter and thoughts, which are, again, means and ends at the same time and mutually exclusive since the one gets him too the other.
The indians are always exactly what he needs them to be, even though this makes him contradict himself all the time. The indians are stupid when they do not understand him and the indians are very intelligent when he wants to think they understand him. They are either evil cannibals, or they are the most warm and friendly people he has ever met. Although he does not speak their language he is always sure that he knows what they are saying and as soon as he cannot understand them, they are stupid or trying to mislead him. In any case, he cannot be wrong for he is the representative of the king and God and he bears the Ultimate Knowledge.
So the indians are exactly what he needs them to be, so he thinks at first. He wants them to become loyal servants and subjects to his God and people. So that is what they will be. They will become very good slaves because they are very eager to please. The indians have no religion or the like whatsoever and seem very willing to convert to the christian belief. This is simple logic: because what he wants to bestow on the indians is the greatest gift possible, redemption and access to paradise. All this must be true, because he is not contradicted.
It cannot not take long off course before Columbus becomes disappointed since reality does not have the tendency to adjust to ones believes, not matter how firm they are. When the idians begin to comprehend what Columbus is trying to do, they start to struggle and resist. They do not want his belief, to become his subject nor to they want to become slaves. Columbus punishes the indians neglect to thankfully embrace his gifts in the most gruesome ways as if they were a stubborn donkey that refuses to do its duty. But to no avail. These punishments are not cruel to him. The indians are more object or instrument to him than they are human. No more than a means to his end. At first they seemed worthy additions to Gods kingdom and wealth, but as they do not serve his end anymore they become mere obstacles his has to get rid off to get him to where he is going.
All Colombus assumptions and beliefs are, as Greenblatt says in his text ‚Marvelous Possessions‘, acts of legitimation. He is the representative of all that is good, so he can do no wrong. Everything he sees already belongs to God, so it is nothing more than his right and privilege to take and do whatever he wants and views as being good. As long as it is for the good of his God and His people. He can do nothing wrong. Columbus his God is an instrumentalistic God and Columbus is merely his instrument. What he does not see is not there so he shuts out all that he predetermined as not helpful to His truth.

Frank 19. September 2011 um 12:48 Uhr

The first question we should ask ourselves if we want to evaluate the critical stance (or perceived lack thereof) También la lluvia takes towards colonialism and neo-colonialism concerns its title. Even the rain? Off course the rain! Has capitalism ever been possible without the ruthless exploitation and expropriation of natural resources? The title seems to befit the movie even less if we consider that it openly contradicts it, as its narrative parallellism immediately draws attention to the fact that global capitalism and its methodic destruction have always been with us – at least from 1492 onwards. This inconsistency is something we should take serious, as it directs us to a key question concerning the politics of this film: is También la lluvia an analysis of the disasters, economic as well as emotional, that global capitalism daily inflicts on us, or is it merely a contribution to it?

At first glance, the film indeed seems to recoil at its own potentially radical conclusions and delicately refrains from judgment. But could the ending be a more dubious one? The morally self-aggrandizing, white-guy-saving-the-day-turn the film takes is an aesthetic compromise that ruins the film, but the more subtle parallellisms generally also do not meet their aims; never do they quite succeed in arriving at something more than a politically vacuous didacticism. The case for director Costa is exemplary: I mean, do we really believe, as the final scene tries to buy to us, that a single gift, one simple exchange somehow existing ‚outside‘ economic relations, could be our shared recompense for ever vaster relations of oppression? In short, Tambien lla luvia suffers from an all too familiar irony that haunts those works of art that try to present us a ‚fair‘ and ‚balanced‘ view – the shibbolets of liberal discourse – thereby glossing over the obvious assymetry of the conflicts that the film sets out to investigate, and ultimatly flushing the seeds of its antagonism down a sentimental drain.

But if the movie ends up reinforcing – through parallellism – the exact same hierarchies it seeks to challenge, it does show us how we keep reproducing and consuming a fatal and catastrophe-ridden history, turning catastrophes into spectacles we can superficially gaze at but fail to grasp or halt. It reveals our cynicism, but does nothing to avert it. Quite the contrary, it further implicates us in it. We might see that as a criticism in and of itself, but however self-conscious this movie’s structure is, I can‘t really see its weaknesses as performing or mimicking a failure in our politics – as if the film would tell us that we should no longer hope to find a purity for our politics from which we can effortlessly leap into collective action.

So: no real transformation, only deepening of this messy status quo: También la lluvia is perfectly consonant with the political indifference of our times, in which every revolutionary potential is inevitably recuperated (or rather, precuperated, as in También la lluvia). If Greenblatt’s reading of Columbus’s journal reveals to us that it is never quite possible for a hegemonic discourse to fully contain counterhegemonic forces, never being fully able to erase its uncanny other, También la lluvia rather empties alterity out, denying it any critical force. While Greenblatt opens Columbus’s discourse up where it most suggestively attempts to foreclose the emergence of a meaning opposed to the hegemonic one (‚And I was not contradicted‘), arguing that this phrase makes the figure of the other at least discursively present, if only as a spectre or cipher, in También la lluvia the figure of the Other is ultimately not a spectre haunting us, but already the Same. This is our present ‚absence of contradiction‘, a form of political kitsch that seems to perform as much an act of ideological forgetting as the journal of Columbus did for Europeans in the fifteenth century.
Guus 19. September 2011 um 12:49 Uhr

In ‘Marvelous Possessions’ Stephen Greenblatt tries to assess Columbus’ discovery of ‘America’. Why did this discovery differ so much form other discoveries? And, even more puzzling, why did Columbus as Greenblatt writes ‘think to take possession of anything, if he actually believed that he had reached the outlying regions of the Indies’ (82)? Greenblatt himself attributes this to the distinctive ‘break’ that the discovery of the ‘New World’ must have been for the Spanish fleet. Whereas for earlier explorers like Marco Polo or John Mandeville, who both travelled by land, the encounters had porous borders, Columbus reached the New world somewhat out of nothing, hence a strict border, ‘a break’ by which the normal conventions and procedures which were employed to facilitate the encounters with the other, became strange, destabilized.

We could thus say that a radical ‘other’ was discovered, one that did not ‘fit’ the Spanish interpretation system. How could the Spanish react to this other? Tzevetan Todorov argues that Columbus’ confrontation, with what he calls ‘exterior otherness’, marks the birth of modernity, which is established by the discovery of the ‘other’ who’s language and customs is so foreign that we won’t even recognize him as being the same species. Therefore Columbus’ discovery, Todorov argues, not only marks the geographically completing of the world, since from now on all the continents are known; the world also becomes ‘one’ in another way: the western superiority is established by not recognizing the other. When confronted with the natives’ otherness, Columbus turns out to be an inadequate interpreter, as Todorov writes: ‘Columbus doesn’t perceive alterity (…) he imposes his own values upon it’ (50). Though an otherness was discovered by Columbus, it is not recognized as such and thereby cancelled out. Todorov subsequently concludes that for Columbus, and accordingly the western world, there is no human substance ‘truly other’: humans are all one, and whoever is not like ‘us’, does not even exist. Others are not ‘on our radar’, so to speak.

While Greenblatt also recognizes the incommensurability between the Spanish and the natives, he does draw a different conclusion than Todorov. Greenblatt’s assessment of Columbus differs with regard to language. In taking possession of the lands, Greenblatt argues, Columbus did in fact recognize the natives (and their otherness) through the speech acts he was performing. By claiming that he was not ‘contradicted’, Columbus established a category, ‘the others’ (those who did not contradict Columbus), which at the same time is emptied out because these ‘others’ are unable to contradict because they did not speak the same language as Columbus. Here the others do exist, but their category has yet to be filled. They are there and recognized, but not (yet) in the same discourse as the westerns. Only through a ‘christening’ do they become something, as for now they are just an empty category, namely: the others.

So confronted with otherness, Columbus either disregarded the natives altogether or created a new inferior category for them: ‘the other’. In both cases their humanity is denied. A quick glance at Tambien la Lluvia shows us how little has changed. The western filmmakers, who through a reenactment of the first journey try to give a voice to the natives whose humanity Columbus had denied, still exploit and suppress the voice of the Bolivians that are being employed to play the original natives. Now the Bolivians humanity is denied, and even more they are still interpreted through a western persective and are therefore still confined to that catergory of the other.

Todor 19. September 2011 um 12:56 Uhr

Charting the Establishment of (Neo)Colonialism.

Relating the film Tambien la Lluvia with The Journal of Christopher Columbus employing Todorov’s Discovery In The Conquest of America and Greenblatt’s Marvellous Possessions assists in charting the processes that instill a system of continued dependencies and/or economic enslavement. Greenblatt points out that although it is not mentioned explicitly in The Journal, Columbus‘ primary intentions were to “gain possession [of] certain islands” and disseminate the Christian faith. Examples regarding these ulterior motives include complaints about the length of the journey, the crusade like excitement upon arrival, the immediate likening of Central American people to beautiful beasts, the need to find gold and the introduction property rights. Indeed, all these factors form the basis of Columbus’s notions – assimilation or enslavement. Columbus’s definitions also underlines the creation of multiple subordinate categories allowing the rationalizations human rights abuses. However, it is the corresponding claims of religious entitlement that freed the colonizers from the guilt of violence. Indeed, if the ‚ungodly beasts‘ cannot understand the glory of God, they will be placed into further subordination as following God’s orders allows for no variation. God’s word must be fulfilled and the agents receive the riches for carrying it out. Todorov points out that making such categorizations involves the discovery self and the final strategy of interpretation. In this strategy, it is the projection of the self on the other, explaining Columbus‘ inability to consider a radical other as such notions are defined through the Christian self.
Charting the change between colonialism to neocolonialism involves changing political justifications while maintaining Columbus‘ categorizations. In colonization, religion defines the other through Todorov’s final strategy of interpretation. Developing neocolonialism involves changing the precursor/justification. Specifically, business takes the space left by religion allowing fund extraction and exploitative practices to continue. A helpful mechanism for understanding the connections and development of neocolonialism in post-colonial nations is the medical virus analogy. Specifically, once a virus is present in the ‚body,‘ it can never be expelled, leaving the ‚body‘ victim to feverish relapses as the malleable and furtive virus changes shape, allowing continued circulation and subordination.
Tambien la Lluvia illustrates how ‚developed‘ nations install the agency that proliferates the maintenance of neocolonialism. Specifically, characters in the film carry the contradiction of caring and crying about the injustices of colonial formation while eating in banquets, berating the local staff, paying exploitative wages, and being primary concerned with the success of their project. This exemplifies how capitalism undermines, dominates and co-opts the actualization of humanistic ideals. The stress this point, the film discusses the Water Wars in Cochabamba and juxtaposes exposing injustice through unjust practices. Specifically, the characters find they are participating in the maintenance of the system they are ideologically and aesthetically trying to deconstruct.
Todorov’s notions about the construction and maintenance of separate and hierarchical cultural definitions run through each of the texts mentioned. Their introduction of property rights, regardless of the precursor (religious or economic), underlines the cultural stratifications furthering western capitalist agency. Unfortunately, the gold, land and ‚others‘ justification for exploitative practices continues as the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Multinational corporations have assumed the regulatory space left by the Spanish, claiming that development takes time, while citing examples of revolution and relating them to savagery. These ideas exemplify Todorov’s categorical theory in practice, Greenbaltt’s discussions of ulterior motives, and Tambien la Lluvia’s central claims of ironic western agency.

Aurelia 19. September 2011 um 14:17 Uhr

Throughout The Journal of the First Voyage of Columbus, it appeared to me that there was a marked difference between Colon’s account of the voyage, and what his actions appear to have been in reality. If we were to look individually at his words, we might form an entirely different picture than if we were to look solely at his actions, and I find the two difficult to reunite.
The key to understanding this contradiction may lie in the way Colon regards – or perhaps more accurately, fails to regard – the native inhabitants of the lands he discovers.
The incongruity becomes immediately obvious in the journal entry of the 11th of October, which describes Colon’s first landfall. The action Colon performed on discovering land is described in the journal: first, he went ashore with the royal standard, and “took possession of said island, (…) making the declarations that are required.” Greenblatt, in Marvelous Possessions, further emphasises Colon’s statement that he observed all the necessary formalities, and “was not contradicted”.
Next, in the journal, we read Colon’s first descriptions of the native inhabitants of the island he has only just taken possession of. This impression, at first glance, is overwhelmingly positive. Although they appear to him very poor, and although he gives a lengthy description of their appearance as though he were describing a never before seen wild animal, he also makes a judgement on their disposition: “We might form great friendship,” he writes, and also “they took all, and gave what they had with good will.”
It is a deeply disconcerting read: at this stage, Colon had already, seemingly without second thought, taken possession of the land these people inhabit, in what might arguably be constructed as an act of war. Colon is able to write that the people he has only just discovered give what they have of their own free will, while having just read a formal proclamation through which he appropriates their land.
Then follows a description of another of Colon’s actions: “I will take six natives for your Highnesses, that they may learn to speak.” In his description of the natives, he assigns them (rightly or wrongly) a character, motive, intent. Through his actions, he reduces them to non-entities, to specimens.
Greenblatt acknowledges that “the Arawak are not simply denied the opportunity to dispute the Spanish claim; they are not in the same universe of discourse” (p. 86), and that it appears that the formality of the declaration is more important than whether or not the natives were able to object: “Why there was no objection is of no consequence; all that matters is that there was none” (p.87).
However, he later argues that Colon’s emphasis on the absence of contradiction at the time of his proclamation demonstrates “an ethical reservation” (p.91), and that through his assertion that he was not contradicted he acknowledges the theoretical possibility that he might have been.
In the gulf between Colon’s words and his actions, however, it appears to me that we are able to read a different conclusion. This very same assertion may go further in negating the agency of the natives than it does in acknowledging their presence: their simple inability – for obvious linguistic and cultural reasons – to respond to the proclamation, disqualifies them from the right to respond.
They possess nothing which Colon values, so they possess nothing They worship no gods that Colon knows, so they worship no gods. They speak no language which Colon can understand, so they do not speak. Almost within moments of discovering a new world, Colon effectively reduces its inhabitants to nothingness, and through his negation of the other, he opens up the space for him to step in and take possession.

Fleur Jonker 19. September 2011 um 21:57 Uhr

Todorov and Columbus: the temporal other

In the first two sessions of this course we started off by looking at Columbus’ discovery of America as the beginning of the construction of the cultural other. Columbus’ journal gives us an insight in how at the time of its writing the cultural other, in this case the indigenous people of America, is being perceived. What I find problematic in Todorov’s analysis of Columbus’ journal is that he, more than once, attributes a consciousness to Columbus’s actions that in my opinion is not necessarily there. This is evident in for example Todorov’s argument revolving around Columbus’s name-giving strategies, which I will explain later.

But firstly, in my opinion, Columbus’s course of action in dealing with the Indians is mostly based on his inability to place himself outside the Eurocentric Christian worldview because at that time a different perspective was not yet available to him since the development of cultural studies does not happen until the nineteenth century. Todorov’s article does recognize Columbus as an example of the transition from a medieval worldview to a modern worldview (12) and thus, it could be argued, from a religious to a more scientific based society. However, he quickly seems to abandon that point by building his whole argument around his conclusion that “he does not perceive alterity, as we have seen, and he imposes his own values upon it” (50). In my opinion this is a given: off course he imposes his own values upon it, he is simply unable to do otherwise since that implies an awareness of one’s own values, an awareness of self, that had not developed yet and would not develop until two centuries later with Kant and the transcendental subject. In 1492, the worldview was based on a Christian hierarchical structure, something Toderov also refers to in Columbus’s name-giving strategy: “successively, God, the Virgin Mary, the King of Spain [or more generally the Sovereign], the Queen, the Royal Prince” (27) with at the bottom of that hierarchy the animal kingdom. The discovery of a people devoid of any religion would have naturally lead Columbus to place them in the natural order somewhere between the animal kingdom and people because his knowledge of the world would force him to do so.

Now, with this in mind I will illustrate how Todorov attributes a certain consciousness to Columbus’ actions by using his example of Columbus’ name giving strategies.
According to Todorov, “the signs of nature are indices, stable associations between two entities, […] human signs, i.e., the words of a language are not simple associations – they do not directly link a sound to a thing, but pass through the intermediary of meaning, which is an intersubjective reality […] Columbus seems to pay attention only to proper names” (25). Todorov uses this example to argue that Columbus’s focus on proper names illustrates his action of taking possession of the land, and with this I agree. However, Todorov continues by arguing that Columbus shows no interest in the rest of the language, “revealing still further his naïve conception of language […] the entire dimension of intersubjectivity, the reciprocal value of words […], of the human and therefore arbitrary character of signs, escapes him”(29). The formulation of this argument in the first person present singular implies that it is a conscious choice of Columbus not to pay any attention to the intersubjectivity and arbitrariness of a language. Todorov does this on more than one occasion, see for example further down page twenty-nine: “Hence we shall not be surprised to see how little attention Columbus pays to foreign languages. However, I wonder if it could have been a conscious decision, since the notions of arbitrariness and the intersubjectivity of the language are only in existence since the start of linguistic studies, which was only as recent as the end of the nineteenth century.

My point is not that Columbus was completely innocent in his perception of the new world. Off course he could have had a certain sensitivity towards other aspects of language even though these notions did not exist yet. And there is, indeed, a certain significance to the fact that he did not interest himself in trying to communicate with the Indians. But I do want to point out that Todorov seems too heavily to attribute a certain consciousness of action within this communication process that forgets the extend of the influence of the ‘zeitgeist’ on a persons perception/interpretation of the world: He forgets that Columbus interprets the world from a completely different background than he himself does. In this sense Todorov and Columbus are each other’s ‚temporal others‘.

Marije 20. September 2011 um 7:40 Uhr

Some critics have accused Icíar Bollaín’s Tambien la llavia (Even the rain) of contributing to the political indifference so characteristic of our times. If there is one message this film still – there have been multiple other artistic attempts – carries out, it would be that up till today one stands completely powerless towards the colonialist paradigm and hegemonic relations it produces. Sebastián’s goal (the director in the movie) to shoot a more realistic image of the disasters brought forth by Christopher Columbus’s travels completely fails due to the Bolivian Water Wars that break out as he and his crew are on the set. Immediately our attention is being drawn towards the similarities between historical and contemporary capitalist exploitation: whereas the colonists used to search for gold, modern-day globalists are obsessed with water and art projects; whereas the colonists singled out slaves to bring back to Spain, contemporary globalists enslave natives for their films. The message of the film: also artists fail to make a difference.

Why then make a film if the only message you have forms the reproduction of this cynical stance, also with respect to art? Why would you again stress the ongoing dominance of the colonialist paradigm and indeed reproduce it? Why not offer an alternative? It is easy to understand this as a weakness of the film itself, as if the act of reproducing is thought to be critical itself. In keeping up this stance the film, however, repudiates the possibility of resistance and alternatives. Another way to understand it is to see it as what Stephan Greenblatt in another context has called ‚an act of ideological forgetting‘. Reading it as an enactment, the film induces us to join in the paralysing thought that because we stand powerless it is legitimate to stay indifferent towards the other. This latter interpretation would make the film very harmful, especially because it is a film. Yet, another way to read it is to interpret the film as a project that once started with the naive ambition to capture the voice of the other but evolved as consciousness grew. Interesting is this regard is Sebastián who under threatening and not very hopeful circumstances decides to stay in Bolivia, on the set, and to not give up his hope on finishing the film. Perhaps he is the only voice in the film representing the believe that art still has a deconstructing potential, even though he (or Icíar Bollaín) is self-conscious enough to realize that he will not be the artist.

In the meantime we were offered another film communicating the ceaseless ascendancy of the colonialist (neo-colonialist) paradigm. Another film withholding its chance to contradict. This reminds me of Greenblatt’s analysis of Columbus’s utterance ‚y no me fué contradicho‘ – ‚I was not contradicted‘. Although this basic sentence describes a situation in which contradiction is absent, in which no other voice is heard, at least it hints towards the formal presence of the other. Who did not contradict? Why did they not contradict? Apparently after 600 years we still settle for only the formal presence of the other.

Joep Schreurs 20. September 2011 um 11:44 Uhr

Tambien la lluvia and Columbus; heirs of a discourse

Todorov shows in his article how Columbus seems to be interpreting the signs in the new world around him to support a preconceived truth. When he sees a whale he interprets it as a sign he‘ll see land soon, when he comes across a river he believes it must contain gold because it looks like a river in spain which he falsely believes has gold. He interprets the reality to fit his own truth.
In the film Tambien la lluvia the fictional filmmakers do the same thing. They literaly try to fit everything into their own truth, the truth which is to be told in the film they are making based on writings by Bortolomeo. The fictional director is somewhat like bartolomeo who wants to speak for the natives and show the world the ‚truth‘.
In reality the Bolvians don‘t need a western man to speak for them as is exemplified by the megafoon the Bolivian guy uses during protests. Instead of making a documentary they want to make a film which is supposed to speak for the natives, unspecified natives. It does not matter to them they are in Bolivia and not on the actual island where the actual story took place for example.
The Bolivians however have no problem standing up for themselves and letting their voice be heard. However their speech is constantly being distorted or ignored. On television they become hooligans and in the eyes of the western filmmakers they are those poor natives. Only at the end of Tambien la lluvia does the producer of the film actually listen. It is only then he allows himself to see what is going on.
The film also shows how, like Columbus and his men in the 15th century, our society is still very much concerned with money. One of the objectives of Columbus was to acquire as much gold as possible for the King and Queen so that they could finance crusades to conquer Jerusalem.
The producer in the film is preoccupied with handling the budget. They go to Bolivia because it saves them money. They pay the crew little and are reckless in setting up the cross. They do all this to be able to make the film and tell the world the ‚truth‘. Concerned with money but for a higher purpose, like Columbus.
It becomes clear that the fictional filmmakers have a hard time letting go of their preconceived notions. The western man wanting to speak for the native when the native isn‘t just a native but a modern man with a specific identity and a voice with which he makes himself loud and clear. One could argue that the fictional filmmakers are heirs of the discourse of Columbus and people in his time in the sense that they too want to speak for others and they too interpret the events around them to fit their own truths and they too are much too concerned with money instead of life.

Fiep 21. September 2011 um 16:36 Uhr

Universes of discourse

Todorov and Greenblatt are wrestling with the concept of alterity in a double way.
Both writers try to understand the incomparable event of the first encounter between Columbus and the Indians, or the Old and the New World. At the same time they try to make sense of an event that happened five hundred years ago, with only texts to go by. The stretch of time between us and the first Conquistadors seems to be as big as the stretch of sea between the two continents.
To write about this historical moment is to be caught into a tangle. For it is not possible to write about the event, without knowing what happened afterwards. Not to know that the Indians Columbus encounters will be gone only a few decennia after he describes them. As it is impossible to reconstruct the event as it happened, as is with every historical event, the question becomes: why?
Todorov seems to be the most straightforward in his motives. His subject is the discovery self makes of the other (3). And because this project is too big he starts with the encounter between a self and other in the form of the discovery of America. But Columbus fails to understand the Indians because ‘he never in fact escapes from himself.’ He is a man who ‘is himself polyglot, and at the same time deprived of his mother tongue.’ (29) An outsider without fatherland (50). There is no clearly defined self or other to begin with, according to Todorov.
“My main interest is less a historian’s than a moralist’s; the present is more important to me than the past.”(Todorov 4) This claim seems to be very far from Greenblatt’s painstakingly, scholarly research into Columbus journal and other texts from the same time. Still they are not so far from each other as it seems. Greenblatt, too, acknowledges that it is impossible to totally reconstruct any moment in history. What he tries is to unravel a narrative because

“Narrative is a comfortable home for the discursive strategy
I have been describing because the pressure of linked events
and the assumed coherence of the tale help to pull the reader
past the awkwardness of incommensurable positions and
silenced voices. It is one of the principal powers of
narrative to gesture toward what is not in fact expressed, to
create the illusion of presences that are in reality absent.”
(Greenblatt 88)

And all that seems to be left of the first humans Columbus met are these silenced voices, gestures and illusions of presence, which only can indicate what is missing after the unraveling. But then, does the unraveling bring anything back or does it only give a glimpse to what is not there?
The encounter of a text from another time is as much an encounter with alterity as an unknown people. How much can we still understand from a man so far away in time, an universe of discourse removed from us? Might Columbus not be as exotic for us as the Indians were for him (and he for them)?
Greenblatt seems to try to conciliate a discourse which is incompatible with ours. What ‘textual resistance’ is offered, what ‘craving for justice’ (91) served by making Columbus think what we would want him to think through a painstaking and intricate analysis of the text he left. If Todorov makes out of Columbus an exemplary story, Greenblatt makes him am emblem. Not an emblem of colonialism, but that of post-colonialism. For what justice is served by making Columbus say, what we would like him retrospectively, to have thought?

Luke 22. September 2011 um 12:22 Uhr

In the subject of history ‘summaries or generalized perspectives will alternate with scenes or analyses of detail filled with quotations, and with pauses in which the author comments on what has just occurred, and of course with frequent ellipses or omissions’ (Todorov, 1984). In making this statement Todorov is bringing to the foreground of his book the flimsy nature of history versus actual historical fact whilst also comparing history to his own creation, a mythic, moralistic narration. Is a well edited narration truly the ‘point of departure of all history?’ In the film, Even the Rain, a moralistic historical narrative of a moralistic historical narrative, director Ician Bollain addresses some key issues regarding history and the representation of otherness by the subject, that parallels Todorov’s claim. As the character playing Columbus states, ‘History is always cruel to losers’, so we shall see some methods with which it accomplishes this.

First of all, in this story the others are the ‘losers’. They lost their land, their resources and their lives and as a result the dominant power were able to write the history, much the same as both the Spanish film and the film crew are more concerned with the issues surrounding the Spaniards rather than the Indians. Anton claims that the movie is ‘propaganda’ whilst the Spanish crew see more virtue in the few invaders’ growing consciences than on the more harmonious way of life of the locals. The crew are ignorant of the water problems, drinking champagne, and also ignorant of the otherness of the Indians. As Bartolome said of himself, ‘he was such an important figure but I am only in eight scenes’.

Columbus had the main goal of riches, and a greedy appetite for gold does not, historically, bring out the best in people. Pair this with Columbus’s religious obsession of spreading Christianity to China and then the universe and one has a well rounded formula for supporting the dominance over otherness, riches and divine reward. As Todorov claims, Columbus set the example for the pillaging that was to come. Those that followed him may have conformed more to distance oneself from the others around, the Indians, and so to confirm their own identities by comparison. So many happily joined in on the genocide that was to follow Columbus’s example without fear of reproach or abjection (as murder would normally invoke) as they would be one with their own crowd. This can be seen as paralleled in the actors’ compassion for the locals whilst they enjoy luxuries in each others comfortable company.

Sebastian and Costa seem to embody a duality present in Columbus. Columbus, according to Todorov, had dual goals. One was to find gold so that he may please his financiers, the other, was the spread of Christianity. ‘There is even a relation of subordination between the two: one is a means, the other an end’ (Todorov). The filmmakers embody this as Costa is concerned about money to the extent of hiring inaccurate Indians, whilst Sebastian is focused on the film as something higher and more important than money. This all comes to the surface in the climax when Costa must act to save a child and Sebastian must save his film. ‘This conflict will end but our film will last forever’. This parallels Columbus’s obsession with the spread of the bible but also claims that Costa’s industrious personality is preferable to religiousness. The side with least sympathy truly acts to help, feels empathy, which can show that Columbus directed himself incorrectly, he understood his role incorrectly.

Todorov states that to him ‘the present is more important than the past’. Studying history can tell us more about the time it was written than the time it was written about and the attempt to represent otherness in an intelligible way surely poses problems. This makes Sebastian and Costa’s job a futile expression of sympathy for dead natives but inadvertently coincides with an uprising that will later give their movie a historical context that they could not provide themselves. Columbus was facing an ultimate otherness, the complete unknown, he could have been sailing off the edge of the earth. But when they arrived they did exactly the same as empires before them have done.