Sunday, December 26, 2010
Earlier this year, February I think it was, Alice, Sylvia and I were sitting in the big iMax Theatre in the centre of Melbourne, waiting to see the 3D version of Avatar. We had to plan this early afternoon adventure very carefully around my medications, appointments, food, even toilet breaks! So when the big screen lit up right on schedule, we were happy, sitting there in a completely full theatre with our 3D glasses on.
Then the screen went blank. Finally, after nearly an hour during which attempts were made to get the movie going, management declared itself defeated, told everyone to queue for their money back, and come again another time.
Can you imagine how long it takes to get your money back in queues from a full theatre? It was my first and last chance to see this movie in one of the best 3D movie houses in Australia. Gone.
It’s just one of those things, just like having the brain tumour that brought us to Melbourne at that time in the first place, really. You accept it and move on.
I did get to see it as a ‘normal’ movie a few months later – on our TV and not in a theatre. The story line had its strong points, ramming home the message of the plight of indigenous people across the earth and their ties to the land, and the relentless pursuit of profit by the ruthless baddies backed by brute force.
Yet there was something about it that annoyed me, and I guess it was the naked truth that the victory of the indigenes in the movie would be as entirely pyrrhic as they have been everywhere in the world, whether in the Americas, Australia, Africa, Southeast Asia, the Chittagong Hill Tracts, or western China. However feelgood the movie might have made us, as the beneficiaries of the plundering of the lands of the people whose way of life was and is tied to that land, we still buy the things that are the result of the plundering. The bad guys do always win, though Avatar seems to imply otherwise.
For Christmas yesterday, Christian and Tracey gave me a high quality copy of Avatar – the one with the extra footage and with a short documentary from the director of Avatar. We do have a nice big TV, which was useful when we were reviewing footage we had shot for our filming business, and I must say the quality of Avatar on that screen was beautiful.
We then looked at the docco explaining why the movie was made. This was quite revealing, as the director, James Cameron, had been involved heavily in the fight by the Amazonian tribes to save their lands from the developers, the dam builders and the ‘progressive’ forces in Brazil and elsewhere aimed at extracting the riches of the rainforest and leaving it in a pitiful state of destruction.
Having seen that, I realised my annoyance with the movie was probably misplaced. It wasn’t its fault that the baddies do always win when it comes to these things. And they DO. Regardless of the little battles that are sometimes won, the real war is lost, and you only have to see the politics (and polemics) of the climate change ‘debate’ to be aware of that.
I guess Avatar is pretty much passé now. It would be nice to think it has had some positive effect, though I am sceptical. Used any maranti lately? It’s a rose-coloured soft wood timber that’s often cheaper than pine. It comes from tearing down rainforest, often illegally, and ending up on the shelves of your local building supplier’s wood stocks.
Our ignorance does as much damage in the world as wilful destruction. I think of my computing gear, that big TV, medications, travel costs, power use… and can’t claim any special superiority. On the contrary.
I daresay most of us are hypocrites in the end. At least, give us the grace to feel bad about it and try to do better by thinking about our resources and who really pays for them. If you think it's us, you're wrong. The people who really pay are the ones who can least afford to.
Here endeth the lesson.