The Grandfathers

reviewed by Kristine Morris

Written by Jim Hanon and Jillian Hanon, Produced by Mart Green

GrandfathersEthnographic Media presents this film about a young man’s search for answers to his own identity among the South American tribe that had murdered his missionary grandfather decades earlier. The last in a trilogy that includes the documentary Beyond the Gates of Splendor and the feature fi lm End of the Spear, this beautiful and moving “motion-graphics” fi lm, winner of the Dove Foundation Seal of Approval, is a story complete in itself. It follows Jesse Saint, motivated by his need to understand his place in a world that had been colored by the legendary life of a grandfather he never knew and a heroic father he had never been able to understand, as he meets up with the reclusive Waodani tribe, known as the most violent on Earth.

Jesse’s grandfather, Nate Saint, was one of a group of five missionaries speared to death by the Waodani in the Ecuadorean jungle. In spite of this tragic event, Nate’s sister Rachel, also a missionary, continued his work with the tribe and lived with them for 36 years until her death in 1994. The fact that the widows of the murdered men and their children also went to live among the Waodani results in an amazing story of forgiveness and redemption. Nate’s son Steve, Jesse’s father, had gone to live with the Waodani when he was 10 and only returned to the United States to attend college. In 1994, after his aunt’s death, Steve returned to Ecuador and was invited by the tribe to live with them. His time there was marked by the building of a community center and an improvement in the tribe’s living and economic conditions. He left Ecuador in 1996 in the belief that his continued presence with the tribe would keep the Waodani dependent upon him. Steve Saint went on to found the Indigenous Peoples Technology and Education Center, Inc., which helps indigenous peoples learn practical skills. The organization continues to work with the Waodani today. Steve consulted with the makers of the two previous films that trace the events surrounding the massacre of his father and the other missionaries and reveal the impact of their deaths on both their survivors and their killers.

When Steve’s son Jesse, who was not raised among the tribe, takes his own family to the jungle and builds a special bond with the now elderly Mincaye, only to learn that he was one of the men who took part in his grandfather’s murder, the depth to which forgiveness can transform lives is revealed.

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