Avatar 2 is the white man’s fantasy of indigenous resistance

A scene from Avatar: The Way of Water

Avatar: Water Road
picture: Twentieth Century Studios

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If you want to see some examples of actual Aboriginal future filmmaking, may I suggest you look somewhere besides James Cameron?

There’s a talk by Creme Metis filmmaker Denis Gullette Night Raiders Or the last film by the late Mi’kmaw director Jeff Barnaby, the amount of blood It was released for streaming near the beginning of the COVID pandemic.

These two films look at Aboriginal history and reframe it from an Aboriginal perspective: boarding school trauma in the case of Night Raiders and the unique relationship that indigenous people had with foreign diseases (think smallpox) in a state the amount of blood. Both films talk about issues affecting India.

If you want to see the white man’s version of a futuristic Aboriginal movie, then the local multiplex is on Avatar: Water Road is the way to go.

However, the plot is what some call Avatar 2 Simple enough: Earth is dying, humans need resources, and that requires total control of the planet Pandora, which also requires “taming” the indigenous population, the Na’vi.

Former avatar and now fully fledged Na’vi, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and his family have been driven from their homelands by Sully’s former military mate Quaritch (Stephen Lang), who has also gone full Na’vi and is ready for revenge. Sully is determined to protect his family from further danger. Why is he running? Is it white sin? He claims it’s to protect his clan from the natives, but his wife, Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), wants to fight.

The Sully family fly away to sea where they meet Tonowari (Clive Curtis), chief of the Māori-inspired Mitkayina clan. The Metkayina are slow to accept them into their territory (the Sullys can’t swim well and their tail is too small) but eventually take Sullys as one of their own and in time they will join together in the fight against the approaching land intruders, the Sky People.

Cameron’s latest work is a curious mixture of superficial nativism signified by the white male’s perspective: long braids and dreadlocks attached to strange bodies, bodies laden with “alien” tattoostyle tattoos. Ten-foot-tall men and women with big eyes and elf ears are set in strange exotic locales that bring to mind a fantasy artist. Frank Frazetta Or certain Lakota friends I met. Above all of this, there is a relationship between these beings, the Na’vi, in relation to the Earth and its inhabitants. It is imaginary originality.

It’s hard not to be skeptical of Cameron’s understanding of the Aboriginal material he’s appropriating here. Sure, you can make up anything you want in a fairy tale and even have a left-leaning bun too. There are no rules for filmmaking or art in general, and if you have the funding, the world is your oyster. One can create a world in which we can see the shortsightedness of white men regarding the environment; A story of materialism and colonialism where the consequences of hunger and thirst for money and resources are presented from beginning to end. What’s wrong with that?

The mistake is that James Cameron can travel the world, do the “research,” and hire Aboriginal movie legends like Wes Studi (Cherokee) in the first movie. symbol picture movie f Cliff Curtis (Maori) f Jermaine Clement (Maori) in Avatar 2but he can’t escape who he is: the director who said Watchman in 2010 that his inspiration for making the first Avatar movie was based on the Lakota Sioux.

“I can’t help but think about it if they are [the Lakota Sioux] They had a window of time and could see into the future…and could see their children Suicide has one of the highest suicide rates in the country … Because they were desperate and it was a dead end society – which is what is happening now – they would have fought a lot more.”

Cameron’s comments are deafening, condescending, and not the kind of ally I want or need to help tell Indigenous stories. It’s one thing to read and research about culture; It’s another thing entirely. Perhaps that is why a boycott of the film is currently underway by several indigenous groups, one of which is led by Asdzáá Tłʼéé honaaʼéí, a Navajo artist and co-chair of Indigenous Pride Los Angeles.

Animation format Avatar: Water Road Visually stunning. The animals in particular – I’ll call them sea animals and air beasts – are very lifelike, with shadows and textures, and many of them have spirits and thoughts of their own and communicate with the Na’vi. The concept (like the movie) walks a fine line between being corny and magical, and you just have to go with the concept, if you’re buying it. One thinks that if you pay the theater entrance ticket, you are ready to ride. I looked at the movie as a journey, once in an IMAX 3D theater and once in a regular theatre. As someone who wears glasses, I have to say that I think I enjoyed the movie better without the 3D accessory (and there’s less risk of smearing popcorn butter on your 3D glasses).

The film’s thesis, amid its many subplots, bizarre character names, Pandora’s versions of whales and sharks, and cool technology, seems to be: family first. In this case, the Sully family fights against the elements and their enemies to persevere on the frontier.

Sully (a Marine in his former human life) and his sons communicate with each other in military talk which is a bit awkward; His sons reply “Yes sir” to their father not as a sign of respect but because that is how they treat each other; They are sons in their father’s army. It’s a Sully family freak. is this wrong? Not necessarily, but it sure hurts to hear in a family supposedly influenced by Aboriginal culture.

And while it’s not entirely off topic, the poor white kid adopted by Sully’s family, Spider (sort of a mixture of Feral child in Mad Max And the Justin Bieber gas station era), is often forgotten or left low on the family’s priority list. The mother practically despises him and he knows it. The Sully clan’s disrespect for their human adoptees becomes comical as the film progresses.

At 3 hours 10 minutes, the movie needs a tougher editor. Although time in the Metkayina lands provides a great backdrop, we probably don’t need to spend a lot of time exploring this new Na’vi version of Maoriland. I’ve been intrigued by modernized Western cinematic influences: trains derailed by Comanche, i.e., I mean Na’vi, ransacked for modern weaponry, sky-dwellers view the Na’vi as impediments to “progress,” and the Sully family as “half-breeds.” Dirty, half sky, half navi.

A movie like this commands a lot of money and is therefore a technological marvel. I keep wondering, what if a producer just gave a Maori-inspired project like this to a real Indigenous director, maybe a real Maori filmmaker like Taika Waititi, and we had a real Indigenous director telling the story instead of a story through the lens of a white guy updating the models Colonial western movies? What would this look like? And why are we watching the Aboriginal story again through the lens of the white man (3D)? Well, the obvious answer is that James Cameron has the money to make it happen. But when would the natives make something like this?

Or perhaps a better question would be: Is this the kind of thing that the natives would like to make?

There are a lot of real-life issues affecting Indigenous people in 2022. The next Supreme Court ICWA decision Regarding whether or not Aboriginal adoptees will be able to stay with Aboriginal families. We have water problems (which ironically this movie has nothing to do with), of course colonization is always present and the struggle for resources is always, but do we need a white man to clothe these issues in a fantasy world where 10-foot-tall aliens fight ‘hard enough’ To save the day to prove that we are after all a “dead end society”? Perhaps the future of Indigenous people should be left in the hands of Indigenous filmmakers who know and can tell these stories?

when first symbol picture It came out in 2009, I really enjoyed it. The technology was shiny and new, there were fewer indigenous stories in the film, and I might have asked less about the kind of indigenousism I saw on screen; Times have changed. In 2022, we will have three Indigenous-led TV programs in the United States: Rutherford FallsAnd the Reservation dogsAnd the dark winds. Reservation dogs alone it had no fewer than six Aboriginal directors in its ranks. It’s time for Indigenous filmmakers to remake these Westerns and continue making our future Indigenous films in our own image, to flip the script, stir up the tropes, and put the Indian before the Cowboy. We’ve got enough proven talent at this point that we don’t need slick, out-of-touch directors like James Cameron to appropriate Indigenous culture to his stories. We can tell our own stories. We tell them better.

Jason Asenapp is a Comanche and Muskogee Creek writer, critic, and filmmaker based in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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