The cinematographer for the film Apocalypto (2006) was Richard Semler, born in Australia in 1943. Semler had worked with Mel Gibson before while filming Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981). His work covers a wide genre of films, from comedy to action thrillers like Dances with Wolves, Waterworld, Nutty Professor II and The Last Action Hero. Semler had won the Best Cinematography Award for Kevin Costner’s Dancing with Wolves (1991) and won again for Apocalypto (2006). The film is deeply indebted to his brilliant work on capturing images and visuals of a decadent and cruel civilization that is nearing its endpoint even as it entraps and enslaves the lower class to work as slaves. Since the whole of the film is recorded in the Mayan language to accentuate its authenticity, English speaking viewers are forced to rely on the subtitles or just watch intently as the entire visual experience unfolds before their eyes. In the opinion of many a viewer, it is a visceral visual experience that speaks volumes through its cinematography. Evidently Semler was just the right choice for picturizing this film. He loves ‘vast stretches of barren land, dark thrillers and musicals’ (http://www.theasc.com/magazine). We see the film and hear and feel it through the eyes of Jaguar Paw played by Richard Youngblood who is in the lead role.
About shooting digital film on a Panasonic Genesis, Semler says: “it was a big moment for me, realizing we could now do things we never thought we’d be able to do. This is a revolution in cinematography” (Benjamin, 2-3). In digital cinematography, motion pictures are captured digitally, much like digital photography. The cinematographer can then alter shading, color and even speed of movement using technical software at which some degree of expertise is required. Semler did all this work in a tent set up near to the filming locations in Mexico. Thanks to films like