List Film

Utopia (4 stars)

Provocative documentary from John Pilger about the treatment of Australia's aboriginal people

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Utopia

There's much that's truly shocking in John Pilger's ironically-titled documentary about the plight of Australia's aboriginal or 'First People' population. There's the shamefully abusive treatment while in police custody of one young man that lead to him dying in his cell. There's the sickening neglect of another man who, while being transported in a mobile cell across the outback, was effectively locked in an oven in which he baked to death. There's the health spa where affluent white guests remain ignorant of the fact that the resort used to be a concentration camp. Then there is the politician, Mal Brough, who, while serving in John Howard's government in the 2000s, allegedly engineered a false propaganda campaign labelling several dozen aboriginal communities as being havens for paedophile gangs in order to steal the mineral wealth the locals happened to be living above. And then there are the scores of white Australians who, interviewed on Australia Day, admit to being totally unaware that that day of celebration also marks the day the aboriginals had their land stolen from them and that these First People lived in Australia before the white settlers invaded.

That last charge is astounding. What's even more astounding, and perhaps the most shocking thing of all in Pilger's film, is that nothing has changed for the aborigine people. At one point, while surveying the sorry state of a community in the arid interior of northeast Australia, Pilger is reminded of another documentary, one he made 28 years ago. He shows us the old footage alongside the new and it's the same, exactly. How can this still be happening, asks the veteran journalist? One answer comes from an academic who suggests Australia continues to endorse the kind of apartheid system South Africa got rid of years ago. Another argues Australia needs overseas aid to find a solution to this appalling state of affairs.

Pilger made Utopia to make Australians sit up and listen. It's no-nonsense, provocative, powerful and sickening stuff.

Limited release from Fri 15 Nov.

Utopia - A film by John Pilger - Official trailer

Utopia

  • 4 stars
  • 2013
  • 110 min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: John Pilger
  • UK release: 15 November 2013

Pilger examines the ongoing abuse in Australia of the aboriginal or 'First People' population, which it has been argued is tantamount to apartheid. The climax is when Pilger compares footage from a similar documentary he made 28 years ago, demonstrating that nothing has changed for the First People. No-nonsense…

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