Images of America

A Social and Historical Look
at America Through the Movies

Study Guide - Black Robe (1991)

Director : Bruce Beresford

Stars :
Lothaire Bluteau .... Father Laforgue
Aden Young .... Daniel
Sandrine Holt .... Annuka
August Schellenberg .... Chomina

Preparation :
Read the movie reviews by Roger Ebert, the New York Times Review and the story on Noel Chabanel.

Historical/Social Significance :
The charcter of Laforgue was based largely on the life of Noel Chabanel (1613 - 1649) who arrived in Huron land in 1643 and stayed until his death in 1649 when the Huron Mission was raided by Iriquois and he was killed.

"Black Robe has been widely recognized as one of the most authentic depiction's of the Indian life ever filmed".1 (Roger Ebert)

"A moving even handed look at European and Native American cultures"2

This film gives good historic background about early French missionary efforts, and the alliances being formed between the French and the different Indian tribes which is good background for the upcoming French and Indian Wars.

Synopsis :
Father Paul Laforgue travels from Quebec 1500 miles to the Huron Mission hoping to help convert the natives. He is guided by a young man named Daniel and members of the Algonquin tribe. After being abandoned, then recovered, by his Algonquin guides and his assistant Daniel, Laforgue and company are captured and tortured by the Iroquois before escaping and continuing their journey.

    Guided Questions for Viewing :
    Assessment questions will be based on the following :
  • Why did the Algonquins begin to think Father Laforgue was a demon?
  • How do the Algonquins feel about the French? How did they describe the French to the other Indians?
  • How do the Algonquins feel about the Catholic religion. How do they react to the description of heaven?
  • What are some of the things Laforgue did to try to impress the Indians?
  • This movie has been described as essentially a religious debate with Daniel in the middle. Comment on this with examples.
  • Both the French and the Algonquins have trouble understanding each other. Give examples.
  • What do you think was the motivation for the French authorities to support a mission like this one? Reference the movie in your answer.

1. Ebert, Roger. "Black Robe." Nov. 1, 1991.

2. Roquemore, John. History Goes to the Movies 1999. p. 45

Reel History -

Axtell, James. "Black Robe" Past Imperfect. 1995

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