News / Arts & Entertainment

Native Peoples See Themselves in 'Avatar'

Special screening coincides with UN meeting on indigenous issues

'Avatar' director James Cameron with some of the indigenous people who attended a recent screening of the film.
'Avatar' director James Cameron with some of the indigenous people who attended a recent screening of the film.

Multimedia

Audio
Adam Phillips

An Australian aboriginal instrument called a "didgeridoo" began a special screening of "Avatar" for indigenous leaders from around the world. The event coincided with the 9th Session of the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York.

James Cameron's Hollywood blockbuster is a potent mix of futuristic science fiction, romance, action-adventure and dazzling special effects that already has earned more $2 billion worldwide.

The film's message has touched an especially deep chord among many indigenous peoples.

Raising awareness

Before the screening, the leaders praised director Cameron for the artful way "Avatar" tells their message to the world. Cameron explained the link between this audience and the movie.

"It's raised awareness of the issues. Of course, the film is a fantasy," says Cameron. "It doesn't really educate. It creates a kind of emotional framework or context for a dialogue, which follows from the film."

The story centers on a marine who agrees to gain the trust of the Na'vi people on a distant planet, while gathering intelligence about them for an invading force from Earth. They want the information to get the Na'vi to relinquish the precious resources on their planet, Pandora.

Director James Cameron says 'Avatar' was meant to be a wake-up call to the civilized world.
Director James Cameron says 'Avatar' was meant to be a wake-up call to the civilized world.

Hitting a nerve

The invasion of Pandora resonated with Native American Willy Littlechild of the Treaty Six Territories in Northern Canada.

"North of us is what they call 'the heavy tar sands,' where machines, huge, huge machines come in to the area just like in the movie," Littlechild. "So that to me had a tremendous impact to me because of the serious violation of the territories of Mother Earth."

The marine in "Avatar" falls in love with a Na'vi princess and is won over by her people's ethos of harmony with nature. He switches sides and leads the Na'vi to victory.

Mixed reaction

Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, an activist with the Kankanaey Igorot people of the Philippines, who have struggled for decades to protect their ancestral lands from logging and mining interests, had a mixed reaction to the film.

"I thought the movie was really very good. It really represents the reality that many indigenous peoples face, and, of course, the reality of how indigenous peoples relate with nature," says Pauli-Corpuz. "What I didn't like was the white man being the messiah.  But he [Cameron] explained that because he is a white man, he is the one making the film, he would like to show it as a way for the white man to really make the amends for what they have done to indigenous peoples."

VOA Reporter Adam Phillips interviews director James Cameron.
VOA Reporter Adam Phillips interviews director James Cameron.

But Carmen Ramirez Boscan of the Wayuu People of Colombia remains mistrustful. She says their desert land continues to be devastated by coal developers with the government's cooperation.

"They are saying we are doing good things, that it's developing our territories when they are just raping our Mother Earth," she says. "You are eating coal all the time. You are breathing coal all the time. But it's not going to change. They don't care about us. They only care about money."

Wake-up call

Director James Cameron says "Avatar" is meant to be an emotional film, not a political one.  He says he's not trying to reconcile the competing claims between corporations, governments, the balance of nature and the rights of indigenous people to live in their traditional lands undisturbed.  

Still, he will say that he does believe the government colludes with big industry and big financial interests to deal with these things in a way where the lack of public interest works in their favor.  

"So, when these battles come along, and they are happening every day all over the world, the more of a media spotlight we can shine on it, the more we can challenge people of conscience, of honor to think about it and talk about it and do something about it," says Cameron. "The movie was meant to be a wake-up call. My fantasy is I grab the civilized world by the lapel and shake and say, 'Wake up!  We've got to deal with this situation. There is urgency here.'"

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

The Hamilton Live

Acclaimed jazz saxophonist Tia Fuller has made a name for herself appearing with such high-profile artists as Beyonce, Esperanza Spalding, and Terri Lyne Carrington. Tia and her quartet performed music from her CD “Angelic Warrior” on our latest edition of "The Hamilton Live."