Last night, on the 17th on January, I was lucky enough to be part of the audience at a screening of John PIlger’s film ‘Utopia’, which looks at the plight of Australia’s indigenous people, and the sickening actions of our successive governments which have time and again reduced them to dirt, in every possible way. And I say ‘possible’ because it indicates the intention behind more than 200 years of actions which have had the same purpose and effect – that of pushing an entire culture to the bottom of the heap.
The screening took place at The Block, the urban centre of Australian Indigenous culture, in inner city Redfern, Sydney, Australia. And no place could have been more suitable for the event, which started with an hour or so of introductions, first from local artist Sean Choolburra, who immediately filled the air with a sense of pride and friendship, before musician Glenn Skuthorpe (whose songs appear in the film), and then others, culminating in the film’s creator, Australian journalist John Pilger.
The introductions were not necessary, because the film stands on its own as a blisteringly powerful right hook to the powers who would destroy our first nation. But sitting among two thousand like minded people, all getting along, in such a beautiful place, on such a perfect night, had the effect of softly reminding all in attendance what should, and can, be a way of life – all races joined together for a purpose, as part of the land we live on. As we all sat together on the grass, watching the sun set, and taking in those around us, I think a collective memory was created – a night no one will forget.
So sit we did, and sure enough the darkness arrived, and as John Pilger spoke of the enormity and depth of the government’s failures, actions and crimes, we settled in for the film itself.
Without describing Utopia in detail (as only the film can do that), I can say that I was amazed and shocked at the how current, how recent, and how merciless the situation is in our country, and how plain it was to see, thanks to Pilger’s skillful presentation, that the government knows exactly what it’s doing.
Placed alongside the words of Lang Hancock, and his daughter Gina Rinehart (one of the world’s richest women), Pilger shows us exactly what is going on. Namely, the two-step process of first removing a people from the map, before the land itself is plundered for it’s wealth, for the benefit of not even the country itself, but a select few born into a family business.
As footage of showed Lang Hancock telling a journalist in the 80s that he believes Aboriginal people should be herded into camps and sterilised, and later footage of his daughter lamely inciting a crowd to cheer for profits, the audience gasped in disbelief. Even the hardened amongst us were shocked.
As the film continued, as the picture of the government’s compliance with these atrocities became apparent, as we all realised that this was happening right now, and that it’s all for the sake of profit, I think every person in the audience felt something click. I know I did, and I know there’s a thousand or so more people in Sydney today who are feeling the same way. We left quickly, but judging by the silence during the film, nobody was unaffected.
There was a moment during the film which summed it all up for me. Sitting in a crowd, on a gentle hill, on a perfect summer night, watching this film, it didn’t escape me that beyond the screen, set against a giant Indigenous Flag, stood Sydney’s newest testement to greed and wealth, the Central Park development, a billion dollar assortment of crappy high-rise apartments designed purely to rake in cash from our favourite dodgy industry, Chinese middle-class students.
Beyond the towers, behind UTS and the ABC building (which itself hid in shame), stood the Ernst & Young building – fully lit and blaring its giant, neon words as if proud of its actions, entirely complaint with those of the government.
And as we took it all in, and shared in our sadness for those who have died, and those who live today in conditions we should be ashamed of, the moon himself rose over the gum trees, as if to join the attraction. Looking up at him, the man in the moon, even he had a sad expression on his face.
But funnily enough, i think we all left with a new sense of pride and devotion to a better future for all of us – especially those of the first nations, who deserve more than anyone the credit and acknowledgement they deserve. A beautiful film, in some ways, and a beautiful night for all.