Film Review: Utopia
Pilger on the war path
Utopia (12A, limited release, 97 minutes)
Director: John Pilger, Alan Lowery. Stars: John Pilger.
Every January 26, Australians take to their sunny streets for an orgy of good-humoured patriotic flag-waving. And great fun it is too I believe, but as John Pilger points out in this very fine documentary, Australia Day is a time of mourning for Aborigines.
The arrival of Captain Cook in 1788 was an unmitigated disaster for the first Australians, who were hunted, slaughtered and treated like wild animals by European settlers throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.
In Utopia, Pilger suggests that attitudes to Aborigines haven't evolved all that much in the intervening years.
He first reported on the marginalisation of Australia's indigenous tribes in the late 1960s, and presented shocking reports of poverty and disease in the Northern Territories.
In Utopia he returns to those settlements to find curable diseases rampant among shack-dwelling communities reduced to near despair.
He visits a luxury hotel on Rottnest Island that was once a concentration camp in which thousands of Aborigines died. No plaque commemorates the site's grim history.
Pilger tends towards the self-righteous, and his hectoring style quickly turns interviews with politicians toxic.
Utopia is nothing much to look at either, and might have been made for television.
But it's a searing and well-argued indictment of Australia's scandalous failure to deal fairly with its Aboriginal population.