John Pilger: 'Utopia is one of the most urgent films I have made'
Journalist and film maker John Pilger has been making films on Indigenous Australia for nearly thirty years. His new film, Utopia, revisits many of the locations and people he has been visiting throughout that time and provides a “grim and powerful” assessment on the state of Indigenous affairs. As the film is set for a January release in Australia, Pilger talks about some of its themes.
Q: You've been making films about Indigenous Australia for decades and Utopia references much of your previous work on the subject. Why did you feel the need to return to the subject now?
A: Much of journalism is only credible when it pays respect to serious human rights issues by returning to them, and examining how lives have changed, or not, and why important voices are suppressed. This is especially true of indigenous Australia. Gaining the trust of Indigenous people often only happens when they see the work you do. The making of my films on Indigenous Australia has reflected the trust of those I have filmed. That’s why The Secret Country in 1985 has become such a valued resource for Indigenous communities, leading to the establishment of the first national Aboriginal memorial in the National Gallery in Canberra.
Utopia is long overdue. The so-called “intervention” in 2007 was one of the most devastating setbacks suffered by Aboriginal people. Do non-indigenous Australians understand the pain and trauma this cynical action by the Howard government caused? I doubt it. The national smearing and humiliation, the lies and consequent tragedies – the increase in suicides, for example – rank with the worst official behaviour towards the first people of Australia.
Utopia is one of the most urgent films I have made. That Australian governments believe they can manipulate and discriminate against Aboriginal communities in a manner that has been described in the UN as “permissively racist” is astonishing in the 21century. How ironic that as Nelson Mandela was buried and venerated, another form of the system he fought against was alive and well in Australia.
JOHN PILGER INTERVIEW ON ABC RADIO
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