ByAlexandra Ekstein-Kon, writer at Creators.co
Editor at MP. Twin Peaks, Fargo, a bit of this, a bit of that. Email me at [email protected]
Alexandra Ekstein-Kon

Amazon is quickly establishing itself as a worthy competitor to Netflix in terms of original content, and their upcoming already critically acclaimed movie The Lost City of Z looks set to establish the studio's worth even more firmly.

The film has a stellar cast, with Sons of Anarchy's taking the lead as famed explorer Percy Fawcett, followed by a bearded as fellow explorer Henry Costin, as Fawcett's wife Nina, and new Spider-Man as Percy and Nina's son Jack.

The full trailer takes us deep into the Amazon jungle, preparing us for the live-action telling of the true story of The Lost City of Z, which will be released on April 14.

The movie is based on the best-selling book of the same name, The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, by David Grann. It tells the story of British explorer Percy Fawcett and his expeditions into the Amazon jungle in search of a mythical city he called "Z." The story is one of intrigue, adventure, deadly obsession and tragedy. Ready? Let's dive in.

Percy Fawcett: A Born Adventurer

 Percy Fawcett in 1911 [Credit: WikiCommons]
Percy Fawcett in 1911 [Credit: WikiCommons]

Fawcett was born in 1867 in England, starting a career in the military as an artillery officer in the British army. He married Nina Agnes Paterson in 1901 and they had two sons together, Jack and Brian. But Fawcett caught the adventure bug and began to study surveying and mapmaking, and even worked with the British Secret Service in North Africa in the early 1900s.

In 1906 he was sent on a mission to map out the Mato Grosso region between Bolivia and Brazil. There he became convinced that a lost city "more ancient than the oldest Egyptian discoveries" was hidden somewhere in the jungle of Mato Grosso. In a letter he wrote to his son Brian, he described the city he hoped to find:

I expect the ruins to be monolithic in character, more ancient than the oldest Egyptian discoveries. Judging by inscriptions found in many parts of Brazil, the inhabitants used an alphabetical writing allied to many ancient European and Asian scripts. There are rumors, too, of a strange source of light in the buildings, a phenomenon that filled with terror the Indians who claimed to have seen it.

'The Lost City of Z' [Credit: Amazon Studios]
'The Lost City of Z' [Credit: Amazon Studios]

The central place I call “Z” — our main objective — is in a valley surmounted by lofty mountains. The valley is about ten miles wide, and the city is on an eminence in the middle of it, approached by a barreled roadway of stone. The houses are low and windowless, and there is a pyramidal temple. The inhabitants of the place are fairly numerous, they keep domestic animals, and they have well-developed mines in the surrounding hills. Not far away is a second town, but the people living in it are of an inferior order to those of “Z.” Farther to the south is another large city, half buried and completely destroyed.

Over the years, he returned periodically to Brazil to search the jungle for the lost city, but he was always forced to turn back, defeated by the jungle once more — and in 1925 he made his final journey.

His Final Journey And Mysterious Disappearance

Percy Fawcett [Credit: WikiCommons]
Percy Fawcett [Credit: WikiCommons]

In 1925 Fawcett journeyed for the last time into the Amazon. Together with his 21-year-old son Jack, he intended to make his way to previously unexplored areas of the jungle in search of Z. It is known that they made it to Dead Horse Camp — where Fawcett had had to shoot his dying horse and return to England after a failed attempt — where they stayed for some months. Before leaving the camp, Fawcett wrote a letter to his wife, saying, "You need have no fear of any failure." That was the last anyone heard from him.

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The expedition was expected to take about a year, but after two had passed with no sign or word from them, the papers back in England exploded with speculation that they were in fact dead. Over the years, some 13 expeditions set out with the specific intention of tracking down Fawcett and finding out what'd become of him and his son; they all were in vain, finding neither hide nor hair of them, and it's estimated that some 100 lives were lost in the search.

'The Lost City of Z' [Credit: Amazon Studios]
'The Lost City of Z' [Credit: Amazon Studios]

In 2005, David Grann, the author of The Lost City of Z, himself travelled to Brazil to see what he could discover. Retracing Fawcett's steps, he spoke with a group of natives, known as the Kalapalo, who were still living on the same territory. They recounted a tale from their oral history of a meeting with a white explorer, saying that they'd warned the man and his group not to continue forward into the territory of a warrior tribe they called the "fierce Indians." However, since the men never returned they concluded they'd been ambushed and killed by the neighboring tribe.

The Cinematic Differences

[Credit: WikiCommons / Amazon Studios]
[Credit: WikiCommons / Amazon Studios]

The story of Percy Fawcett is fraught with speculation and intrigue, but any good cinematic retelling will have its embellishments, particularly regarding aspects that make a character more palatable to a modern audience.

The trailer depicts Fawcett as a courteous man who respects the native tribes he encounters in Brazil and Bolivia, even loudly proclaiming back in England that they could be equal to the white man (which doesn't go down to well). While it is likely that he didn't enthusiastically campaign for equal rights for minorities, he did in fact write in his journals about the importance of being respectful and mindful of the native communities.

Sienna Miller (top left), Tom Holland (top right), Robert Pattinson (bottom) [Credit: Amazon Studios]
Sienna Miller (top left), Tom Holland (top right), Robert Pattinson (bottom) [Credit: Amazon Studios]

The other cinematic embellishments lean toward the physical, and the differences between the on-screen Fawcett and the man himself are quite apparent. In the movie, Fawcett is a young man, likely in his early 30s, while Fawcett was actually 57 years old when he set out on his final expedition.

The trailer also implies that Fawcett's family name had somehow been disgraced — with Sir George Goldie (Ian McDiarmid) saying, "You could reclaim your family name." While this certainly adds further incentive for him to seek out the hidden city, there is no evidence his family's name had fallen into disrepute.

Written and directed by James Gray (Two Lovers), and produced by the producers of 12 Years a Slave, looks set to tell a poignant and intriguing true tale of bravery, adventure and mystery. Look for it in cinemas on April 14, 2017.

Are you going to see The Lost City of Z?

(Sources: History, Ancient Origins)


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