The Mission

American Christian missionary John Chau was murdered when he tried to illegally contact and convert some of the world’s last uncontacted indigenous people. Through exclusive interviews and archival footage of John’s journey, THE MISSION explores themes that strike deep at the heart of religion, colonialism, and anthropology, questioning where we draw the line between faith and fanaticism, exploration and exploitation, imagination and destruction.

  • Released: 2023-10-13
  • Runtime: 103 minutes
  • Genre: Documentaries
  • Stars:
  • Director: Jesse Moss, Amanda McBaine
  • roakie72 - 15 June 2024
    I wouldn't change a thing. Practically perfect
    This documentary stayed with me, not just for the subject matter but for the brilliantly balanced way in which it was done. How does a filmmaker make a documentary about an event to which no one was a witness, and about which everyone has a vastly different opinion? That's not easy, but this film does it beautifully. The animation is lovely and conveys all the emotions of the subject without being shmaltzy. The various opinions are presented sensitively and with equal weight, and the viewer is allowed to make up his own mind. Was John brave or foolish? Was he brainwashed or did he act on his own accord? Does the church have his blood on its hands? Should he be emulated or scorned? Evidence is given for all of those possibilities, but the decision is yours. At the same time, John is never treated like a fool, but is given a lot of respect by the filmmakers for his intelligence, his compassion, and his determination, for better or for worse. We really get to know him through the interviews, his writings, his home movies, and through his friends and family. We can't help but like the guy, and that's an admirable goal achieved by the filmmakers. What is also very rare and startling is the idea of NatGeo turning the microscope on itself, and questioning its own role in how remote "uncivilized" communities were portrayed, and if they as publishers and documentarians share some of the blame for some negative stereotypes. Lastly, I see some of the negative user reviews here and it seems to me most are highly critical of John himself, and therefore of this biography, but that's really short-sighted. The point isn't to rate the film based on how much we love or hate missionaries; I'm chosing to praise the film for the excellent job it does of showing both the extreme zealots and the non-belivers, and several others in between, and letting the viewer make the final call.
  • brentsbulletinboard - 13 December 2023
    Is It Altruism or Arrogance?
    Is religious missionary work an act of altruism or arrogance? Does it represent a quest for the fulfillment of one's spiritual potential or a euphemistic cover for an inflated sociopathic ego? And, in either case, is it even possible to distinguish the two? Those are legitimate questions in the case of 26-year-old fundamentalist Christian missionary John Chau, who disappeared and was presumed dead in 2018 while attempting to spread the word of Jesus to the reclusive indigenous residents of North Sentinel Island, an Indian protectorate in the Bay of Bengal. The locale, one of the world's most difficult destinations to reach and one that's strictly off limits to outsiders, is home to an obscure, little-known tribe with a reputation for being mistrusting of and unwelcoming to strangers. Yet Chau was convinced that it was his destiny to convert them to Christianity no matter what, even at the cost of his life, a concern that worried his family, friends and seasoned missionaries who had attempted comparable initiatives with native people in other parts of the world. It was an effort that raised questions about Chau's motivations: Was he a committed religious zealot who truly wanted to spread the word of Christ, or was he suffering from a maniacal Messiah Complex hell-bent on testing the limits of his courage, hubris and personal capabilities? Directors Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss seek to answer these and other thorny questions about this enigmatic individual whose real intents may never really be known, leaving lingering doubts and pain about his mission in the minds of those who knew him. Thanks to unprecedented access to Chau's kindreds, as well as his recovered diaries, the filmmakers tell a captivating tale about his experience, along with thought-provoking ethical examinations about the nature and propriety of missionary work in connection with indigenous societies. Should it continue? Is it appropriate for Westerners and devout Christians to interfere in the spiritual lives of those who adhere to alternate viewpoints? Indeed, are these people genuinely in need of being "fixed," regardless of the alleged nobility behind the intentions of those seeking to carry out these transformations? "The Mission" offers viewers a delicately balanced view of these notions, prompting even the most dedicated disciples of this work to step back and take a new look at what they and their peers are carrying out. It also presents an eye-opening discussion of this subject, encouraging us to ask ourselves, how much is too much when it comes to missionary work, regardless of the religion involved? And when is it appropriate to leave things as they are for those who already appear to be happy and contented in their lives and beliefs? There's a lot on the line in this Critics Choice Documentary Award nominee, and, in light of the nature of its story, that's something we must never lose sight of.