And... cut! Filmmakers ready themselves for Apocalypse Friday


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The Independent Culture

The end of the world is nigh and filmmakers don't want to miss it. The Mayan Apocalypse falls on 21 December. At least two films have been greenlit with the Mayan calendar's doomsday in mind. Next week, shooting begins on La Ultima Pelicula, a film in which a filmmaker sets out for Mexico with a guide and translator at the end of 2012 to scout locations for his last film, an acid Western in the Dennis Hopper mould. The Mayan Apocalypse intercedes. He discovers he is indeed making not only his last film but the final one of all time.

Canana Films, the company set up by Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, is backing the project, which is being directed by Mark Peranson and Raya Martin.

The filmmakers are clearly confident that the world won't, in fact, end next Friday. On 21 December, they will be out and about, shooting documentary footage to include in their movie. They are on the Yucatan Peninsula which, Peranson points out, has already endured one apocalypse. It was here that an asteroid is thought by scientists to have landed more than 65 million years ago and snuffed out the dinosaurs in the process.

"Who knows what is going to happen? That is the adventure," he reflects on the idea that humanity might go the way of the dinosaurs before next weekend.

Another film, Heart of Earth, Heart of Sky, has already been made about the Mayan calendar. This documentary by Eric Black and Frauke Sandig, invites Mayan people themselves to ponder their beliefs about creation and destruction on camera. Whereas Westerners are expecting the end of the world to unfold in the manner of a Michael Bay or Roland Emmerich film, the Mayans regard destruction in a more symbolic and mystical way. They argue that humankind has "forgotten to be in harmony with nature" and that it is now time for the world to "purify itself".

"A lot of Mayans are also using it [the end of the world] as a tourist opportunity but that's more in Cancun," Peranson says. "Here [in Mexico], I think the attitude is more that it is a chance for renewal and celebration… they are all making plans for what is going to happen on the 22nd."

The filmmaker acknowledges that if the film is too preoccupied with 21 December, it will risk seeming very dated when it is finally edited and released next year. His directing partner Raya Martin is a fervent believer in horoscopes. Peranson is more of a rationalist. Even so, he isn't discounting Mayan predictions altogether. "We are playing with what happens if there is an apocalypse but nobody even notices it happens. That also fits in with the global warming thing, right! Maybe we are at the end of the world and it is not that noticeable."

Here are five of the best "End of The World" films:

1. Melancholia

Lars Von Trier's downbeat, arthouse drama about two moody sisters waiting for a rogue planet to collide with earth.

2. Last Night

"Party like there's no tomorrow... because there isn't" ran the tagline as Canadian director Don McKellar imagined how some Toronto folk might spend their last evening alive.

3. Dr Strangelove

Stanley Kubrick's Cold War satire invites us to learn to stop worrying and love the bomb.

4. The Day the World Ended

Armageddon, courtesy of exploitation king, Roger Corman.

5. The Day the Earth Caught Fire

The real pleasure in Val Guest's apocalyptic tale is its evocative depiction of Fleet Street in its heyday.