Thursday, February 6, 2014

AVATAR REVISITED ~ The Anil Netto Review

On 28 December 2009, while I was enjoying an unplanned 2-week vacation at Bamboo River (aka Sungai Buloh hospital), Anil Netto wrote a superb review of James Cameron's blockbuster movie Avatar and dedicated it to me. I read it in mid-January and again today - and decided it definitely warranted a wider readership, since it addresses issues fundamental to our continued existence as a species...

Avatar: Beyond the 3D, another dimension

This post is dedicated to blogger Antares, who I understand is seriously ill with a malaria infection. Antares knows all about the inter-connectedness of Nature that the movie Avatar depicts so beautifully. Wishing him a speedy recovery. [Thank you so much, Anil!]

A couple of days ago, I thought I would check out the movie Avatar after a couple of friends tipped me off about the story line.

Of course, the special effects in this movie by the director of Titanic [James Cameron, pictured right] are spectacular and the unorthodox love story, compelling. But looking beyond these, I was pleasantly surprised by the powerful and rich underlying messages in the movie.

In the movie, the earth is dying as humanity has destroyed the environment. Humans are colonising another planet to extract minerals and other raw materials from a site where an alien tribe lives. Corporate greed is alive, this time focused on exploiting the untapped resources of the alien planet, while science is being used to serve the corporate agenda.

The movie has a strong anti-imperialistic message that will resonate with many former colonies and native communities in Asia, Africa and the Americas. The colonisers (the humans) try to use diplomatic means to achieve their goals, by hoodwinking the local population (the alien natives) with promises of “development” – roads and schools – but all the time, their over-riding goal is to extract resources from the alien land.

Corporate Geek and Empathetic Scientist
The human corporate predators try to infiltrate the alien native community and win over the confidence of their leaders using agents in disguise (avatars). This message could also apply to neo-colonial situations where local elites have taken over the colonialists’ role in exploiting the land belonging to natives and trying to buy over their leaders using intermediaries within their communities.

To the humans, the alien natives are savages and “roaches” that have to be driven out of the forests. If ‘diplomacy’ (more like trickery and deceit) fails, then force would be used to evict the natives. It is easier to use military force when the natives are portrayed as terrorists (“we have to fight terror with terror”) and anonymous sub-humans. The human corporate predators thus think nothing of carpet bombing or incinerating the forests (shades of Vietnam and Iraq here?) to the horror of its inhabitants.

Apart from the anti-imperialistic overtones, the film contains a powerful environmental message. The forests and its creatures are all inter-connected. The natives are heirs to an ancient wisdom that the corporate predators simply cannot comprehend. Like in many parts of India or even Sarawak for that matter, the forests and land where the natives usually live are treasure troves of rich natural resources. These lands are thus the targets of corporate predators that want to extract minerals (or build dams or open up plantations or what-have-you).

The natives, however, have a strong bond with the creatures of the forest and they are in tune with the Spirit, which infuses creation with its breath. The chief scientist in the human team discovers that the biodiversity of the forest is almost similar to the intricate nerves of the human brain – something that the corporate types scoff at (“Come on, a tree is a tree!”). The whole of creation is inter-connected.

I won’t spoil the movie for you: it’s worth checking it out, if only to see how it persuades audiences to identify with an alien native tribe (the good guys) against their human predators. In the process, you get to marvel at the breath-taking beauty and inter-connectedness of creation (albeit in an alien world) at a time when our own world is facing environmental chaos. Might not this be what our own world was once like (as in the “Garden of Eden”)?

Anil Netto
28 October 2009

[First posted 5 October 2010]