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9:05am — N.M.’s Near-Miss With Mel’s New Movie

IAIA says offer to screen "Apocalypto" was on too short notice.


Mel Gibson has emerged from the shadows of last July’s drunken-driving arrest (and ensuing anti-Semitic tirade) and hit the road last weekend, taking his still-unfinished Mayan movie epic "Apocalypto," scheduled for release on Dec. 8, to largely Native American and some non-Indian audiences.

If he were trying to keep a low profile (he wore a wig, a hat and sunglasses to a showing last Thursday in Lawton, Okla., according to this story in E!Online), he failed, managing to grab headlines with a blast at the war in Iraq last Saturday in Austin, Texas.

He took off wig, hat, sunglasses — and gloves — as he told an audience at the Fantastic Fest film festival in Austin that American troop deployment in Iraq could be compared to ancient Mayan human sacrifices, according to a story in The New York Times (registration required) this morning.

"The precursors to a civilization that’s going under are the same, time and again," Gibson told the audience, according to an Agence France Press report. "What’s human sacrifice if not sending guys off to Iraq for no reason?"

As the old standup satirist Mort Sahl used to say, "Is there anybody I haven’t offended?"

But according to this morning’s Santa Fe New Mexican, Mel could have made his controversial remarks at the Institute for American Indian Arts, but the offer to screen his movie for free came too late to be accepted.

Gibson publicist Jhane Myers called IAIA at noon last Friday offering to show the film at noon the following day, saying Gibson was on a tight schedule and needed a quick answer, an IAIA official told the New Mexican.

"With the short notice, we couldn’t anticipate the level of student involvement, and we did ask a number of people if they could attend, and they could not," Susan Crow, director of institutional advancement at IAIA, told the paper.

"We haven’t declined a screening. We would really like to hold a screening on campus that would enable us to have a forum and discussion with the students after," Crow told the New Mexican.

The school is trying to reschedule a screening, but hasn’t heard back from Gibson’s people, the New Mexican said.

Crow said she was told that because of Gibson’s tight schedule, Saturday was the only day the controversial megastar actor/director could have been present, the paper reported.

This morning’s New York Times story said that an early look at "Apocalypto" has "at least some of the earmarks of an Oscar picture, including epic sweep and considerable ambition."

The film, shot entirely in an ancient Mesoamerican dialect (with subtitles), tells the story of a peaceful Mayan village violently conquered by another Mayan tribe, the Times reported.

It also has been described as a violent, action-packed meditation on what happens when a civilization collapses — a point Gibson seemed to be trying to underscore in Austin last Saturday.

"I don’t mean to be a doomsday guy," Gibson told his audience, "but the Mayan calendar does end in 2012, boys and girls."

What he’s referring to, of course, is the vast undercurrent of speculation that the world — or at least the world as we know it — will end with the turning of a great cycle of the Mayan calendar at the winter solstice (Dec. 21) of the year 2012.