Ever since Bono declared his intention to “bring some sex appeal to the idea of wanting to change
the world” on the front pages of Vanity Fair, I’ve been suspicious of celebrity endorsements of struggles for social justice. James Cameron, the director of the brilliant Avatar, is an exception, however. In this interview on the Riz Khan show, Cameron speaks about his recent visit to Brazil and the resistance of local communities to the construction of the Belo Monte Dam, which threatens the destruction of the homeland of tens of thousands of people. In eminently sensible and respectful terms, he discusses his support for their struggle and his reaction to the way indigenous activists around the world have embraced the motif of the Navi struggle against corporate imperialism so masterfully depicted in Avatar. What is more, it seems his initial reluctance to acknowledge the parallels between the Navi and the Palestinian struggle is waning too.
Below the fold, you can find another recent IPS interview with Cameron where he further discusses the relationship between Avatar and and its appropriation by indigenous activists. (For previous PULSE posts on Avatar see the review by Kim Bizzari and Max Ajl’s response to Slavoj Zizek.)
Following last night’s choice of the Oscars’ jury to award Katherine Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker with the Best Picture prize, the debate has since then moved to the pubs and the ether. It appears to be primarily concerned with whether Bigelow’s portrait of “the” war does justice to the genre and whether, with time, Avatar will come to be recognised as more deserving of the aspired title. The debate however is having the effect of reducing Cameron’s gargantuan critique of modernity to “just another war movie”, adding to the already popular dismissal of the film, by the intellectual left, as a western guilt-fantasy.
Lets start by considering the assumption that Avatar is “just another war movie”.
If indeed we accept that Cameron’s intention was to provide us with a science-fictional portrait of war, then we must also conclude that von Trier’s Dogville is nothing more than an aesthetically minimalist representation of the Great Depression. Just as von Trier exploits the Great Depression as a historical backdrop against which he develops a provocative portrayal of human nature, so does Cameron in the use he makes of military intervention in Avatar.