AVATAR – bringing contemporary world challenges to the big screen
Tangem Elvis Paul
General Idea and Out look on the film AVATAR
Personally, I think Piracy is a bad thing, I avoid buying pirated goods in any form, I hate manufacturers’ impostors. But where do we get the real thing. Well, in as much as I hate piracy and avoid buying such goods, I could not resist buying a pirated copy of AVATAR, I just watched the Red carpets, the awards of the best of the best in cinemas, apart from the well dressed artist, what caught my attention was the presenter dressed in ‘an extra terrestrial’ suits, speaking in a languages that reminded me of my best childhood film, ‘the gods most be crazy’. Then I had the opportunity to watch the much talk about AVATAR. I understand now why there were so many hisses about this film. On you tube, MSN, yahoo, I followed the comments and rating of the film. I was some how disappointed, after the high rating, all the comments were about whether they will be an AVATAR II or when is AVATAR coming out. Very few fanatics made a link between AVATAR and contemporary Global Challenges that was the main story behind the film. Climate change, Ignorance, intolerance, consumerism, uncontrolled globalisation, “uniformism”. According to me, the main message that James Cameroon clearly brought out, is the issue of climate change, (causes, and consequences, prospective) and the relevance of both modern scientific approach and the indigenous knowledge approach to solving. This can be seen at the end of AVATAR, there was no absolute victor or vanquished, both sides suffered huge losses both human and material. Neither the monstrous scientific machines nor all the spiritual power and knowledge of Eywa, the indigenous Na-Vi deity.
Let’s take a deeper look of the film and some of the main characters
Unlike my friend Dr Okwen Paddy, AVATAR is not about who did what , it is not about condemning the Engineers , big businesses , or looking for the guilty ones , or throw blames at who is responsible, we have moved forward from the era of blame. Climate change is a general challenge that is affecting every body, Nation, Continent and everybody can play a part, the rich and the famous, the developed and less developed, scientist and Deities, politicians and Traditional Rulers
Taking a closer look at some of the episodes and action
The NA-VI believes that, there is a profound relationship between the Na-vi, the human society and the forest, that there is a network of energy circulating in all living things that this energy is borrowed and will eventually return to the network when we die. This is the basics of Indigenous Knowledge in many cultures whether in Australia, Canada, the Congo, the Masais, or the Grass Landers, there is a general believe that humans have a symbiotic relationship with nature. Science also teaches Us same ideas with the various life cycles. Why then does some think that their ideas and approach can serve as a Panacea for the world’s challenges only?
Actors in the film like Parker, the chief security officer Colonel, depict what is wrong with the world today and why the world is facing so much trouble in the search for solutions to challenges like climate change.
Parker- Mission controller, Business man , myopic entrepreneur believes in hurried laboratory fabricated solutions, wants hurried relationship with the indigenes , is in a hurry and have no time to understand the NA-vi.
The chief security colonel like Parker, the Navi are cannibals, people living on trees, kills
at will – reminds me of stories about the Pygmies in the Cameroon , mis conception , myopic, mysticism ,
Jake Sally & Grace Augustine – Main Actors they can be likened to the Eco tourist, who visit places by curiosity and finally remains to become Indigenes by conviction. They are the NAVI, to me depict a new ‘globalise’ humans or those People who are able to understand and accepts both worlds and defence the rights of every person or group of persons to live. Whole film characters can be classed into the Good, the Bad, the Ugly.
The Big Monstrous machines reminds me of Mega machines is it on National Geographic channels or Discovery channels , they are no exaggeration or fictions of James or David Cameron , they are real See the machines excavating mines , bauxite, goal , diamonds , Uranium mines or logging in Africa and all over the world.
The big multi national logging companies in Cameroon and the Congo basins sees each tree in terms of buildings, hard wood , pure cash , resources to be exploited and make money.
The Na-VI like the Pygmies, the Aborigines, sees the natural ecosystem as being part of a whole, interdependent, don’t kill them or cut them down if not absolutely necessary. Even the animals. Just like the Grass field traditions of Cameroon don’t kill female or young animals,
Never say thanks for killing any being, don’t be happy for killing other beings, animals should not be use for games, sports. These cultures are inherently Eco friendly.
At the end of the film Avatar, no vanquished, no victors, just dead bodies, remains of a lot of destruction. As the Na-Vi looks on and Parker and his crew slowly leaves for home. It is a very sad episode. If only they would have been a bit patient and more tolerant.
The lessons from the whole film is The need to blend the modern scientific experience, tested laboratory evidence based result with the spiritual, long experienced indigenous cultures and believe passed from decades to decades. That is the only way forward to solving the numerous environmental and human challenges the world is facing today. The need for tolerance, open mindedness, acceptance and taking time to learn, live with the people and understand who there are and why they live the way there are like Grace, Jake Sally, and others.
Western education, medicine, western lifestyle, democracy is not a panacea for the worlds problems Just like Indigenous Knowledge approach, Religions, there is the need to look into what works in the t
The important role of the Press, media comes out clear; there is need for the press to be more positive, balanced and patient. There is no need for the press to choose side, condemn the big business always. The Press and ICT can play are very important and positive role in the Global combat against climate change and other challenges. My feeling is that they have not been doing this as much as they should. The presses many a time mislead the general public focusing only on the negative, biased. Example the perpetual negative images on Africa, the coverage of the Copenhagen conference was so poor, It is time the Press and other medium of communication play a more positive role in global issues. The media needs to be interested in positive and good news. Lucky enough they are trends to show that change is taking place. Example The need to upscale best indigenous practices in conservation like what is happening in the sahel region with Web alliance ( www.weballiance.org
) and Re-greening the Sahel , the need to for synergies , ‘ brassage’ between latest ICT with indigeous traditional knowledge is the way forward. Initiatives like the 1080 film (http://www.1080films.co.uk/contact.htm
There is the need to promote organisation like treeAid, its strategy improving livelihood through tree conservation ( www.treeaid.or.uk
) . Tree Aid and partners have proven that the challenges like extreme poverty, foot shortages, land degradation and Climate variability can be combated not only through industrialisation, and pure hard scientific methods, but also through indigenous activities, initiatives and knowledge. That development and conservation can grow together; development and livelihood improvement should not necessary lead to destruction of the nature, by bringing in modern forest techniques and indigenous knowledge, communities can improve from within and be more resilient to the caprices of weather and climate change.
Recent development trends shows that, in times to come, development will not be measured by the number of skyscrapers fly over, number of cars, and tarred road, but by the amount of vegetation cover that a country has. This can be justified with carbon credits, PES, CDM initiatives, REDD initiatives etc.
Let AVATAR not only be a good 3 D movie (can’t really explain the 3 D idea), let it not only win best picture awards, and the Red carpets and stars, let those who go to the cinema halls in New York, London, Paris, etc learn from it, lets see what our ever increasing appetite and consumer lifestyle is doing to our world. The Amazons, Congo basins, ice lands are disappearing. For me James Cameroon should be awarded like Al core’s inconvenient truth,
Lets Scientist make the direct link between the film Avatar and the global challenges of climate change, terrorism, HIV Aids, extreme poverty.
Then AVATAR will cease to be just another of Cameroon’s or Cameron’s scientific fiction like the famous shipwrecked film with Capri something and Kate winslet ( I am very good at keeping female names). It should be serve as a medium of learning especially for the City Dwellers whom Climate change and other Global challenges are just as fictional as AVATAR.