The irony of New Zealand and the Avatar Sequels: ramblings of a Maori socialist

Irony couldn’t be more of a bastard in this case
Irony couldn’t be more of a bastard in this case

Given the current political climate surrounding New Zealand’s growing chumminess with multinational corporations (as well as the country’s colonial history) one could unquestionably agree that Aotearoa is the right place for the filming of the Avatar sequels – for all the wrong reasons obviously. The first Avatar instalment was heavily drenched in themes of capitalism, ecological devastation, corporate greed, war, geopolitics, colonization and indigenous rights. No doubt that James Cameron’s expansion of Pandora’s story will offer up similar if not the same issues.  Surely one cannot deny the anti-capitalist silhouette at the crux of the Avatar narrative, and it is this storyline that is ironically if not incongruently undermined by the New Zealand government’s deal with Cameron and co.

Aotearoa seems to be a growing playground for the corporate destabilization of indigenous self-determination as well as capitalism’s raping of the ecosystem. The Anadarko handshake this year showed just how little Māori customary fishing and land rights mean when the rubber hits the road. Raglan Māori have been demoralized, in spite of mass national protest against the oil company’s presence in NZ waters, as Simon Bridges and John Key basically welcomed Anadarko with open arms – ironically the next Avatar sequel has an emphasis on Pandora’s oceans and marine ecosystem, maybe Simon Bridges can play the corporate antagonist. Ngā hapū ō Ngāruahine have been struggling against the government’s partnership with corporations too, as Tag Oil were permitted to drill just 220 metres from the base of Mt Taranaki (depth range 1000-5000m). Indeed the corporate trend of mass exploitation of fossil fuels as well as neglecting indigenous self-determination, seem to parallel National’s rat race for economic capital at any cost – with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP/TPPA) projected to be finalized early 2014, it will be interesting to see the anticipated spike in the struggle for tino rangatiratanga in NZ, and the similarities between Māori and Na’vi.

Clearly this is a philosophical commentary rather than a political or economic observation. Some might relegate my comments to an overly dramatic agitator, and that at the end of the day the Avatar sequels are just movies – which hold economic promise for New Zealand over the next five to six years ($500m). Possibly the New Zealand film industry might think I’m being excessively philosophical, and that I’m being anti-jobs (which I’m not by the way). All I am saying is that the ironic parallels between the neo-capitalism of New Zealand’s government and the corporate antagonists of the Avatar movies are too blatant to ignore. Yes this will be good for the country’s economy as well as the dwindling local film industry, but it seems that the capital will arise by a deal between a capitalist government and an anti-capitalist film. Irony couldn’t be more of a bastard in this case.

So what would I propose? How about some government congruency? Why the need for further oil exploration if the Avatar sequels are going to bring in $500m? Why not trade in the scurry for fossil fuels off Taranaki and instead utilize the estimated capital from the Avatar movies to grow the potential of New Zealand as both a source and destination country for great films? Government schemes could be set up to offer the underemployed and unemployed kiwi youth incentives to study and train for the film industry – just a thought. At the end of the day, I’m just a rambling dude that sees both the ironic incongruency of John Key as well as the potential to invest more into New Zealand’s filming potential and less into the exploitation of indigenous land & waters.



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