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Avatar Shown to UN Forum by Cameron, White Messiah Alleged, "We're All Indigenous"

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 24 -- Avatar was screened by its director James Cameron for the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues on Saturday night in Manhattan. Afterwards Cameron was asked why the hero had to be a white male, in the tradition of Dances with Wolves and before that Little Big Man.

   Cameron replied that he was trying to "wake up Caucasians." He said both that "we are all indigenous" and that he wants "everyone to be a white Messiah." While unclear it was heartfelt. At the end an indigenous legislator from Peru stepped forward to give him her business card. It's 2010 and networking is everything.

  In fact in the film, networking is central. The enormous trees which the U.S. corporate invaders are seeking to fell have "roots which interconnect," Signourey Weaver informs us, making up a network. The invaders are not impressed. Echoing Iraq, pointing at a book about the Na'vi, it is said that "when people are sitting on [stuff] that you want, you make them your enemy."

  In another echo of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and post 9/11/01 war, the military villain vows "we'll fight terror with terror." He has looked at the protagonist's file - "I see you were in Venezuela." One wonders, is Cameron predicting a US assault on Hugo Chavez, before the time frame of the film?

  While the movie was being screened, Cameron did fast one on one interviews with reporters. Inner City Press didn't ask for one, but heard about at least two. The "we are all White Messiahs" line was said both in private and in public: it is a talking point, for better or worse.

 Inner City Press asked the UN how the screening came about and was told

"Matthew - The idea for the screening came about as the Secretariat for the Permanent Forum had heard many positive reactions from indigenous representatives on the film and how it was echoing their own stories. Through personal contacts of the Secretariat and the NGO co-sponsors, they contacted James Cameron re the possibility of a screening and it went from there."

Cameron (per Broddi) at UNPFII screening: White Messiah?

   Since, as Cameron put it, the movie made "$2.7 billion for Rupert Murdoch," clearly he doesn't need the publicity. It seems he consented to the event in order to put to rest the residual criticism of the movie as racist -- although the "White Messiah" critique has been raised mostly by, well, white Messiahs -- and to show that his motives weren't commercial.

  Witness Cameron's support to a protest of a project in Brazil. One wonders what Cameron thinks of President Lula's policies on the indigenous. Or of Evo Morales' recent comment that Western food, genetically engineers, leads to "baldness and homosexuality."

  Cameron disclosed that he opposed the invasion of Iraq -- very courageous, at this point -- and that corporate interests are "plundering if you will." Yes, they will, including the financiers of the studios distributing Avatar. But if enough business cards are passed, perhaps there will be justice. At least, there will be a sequel. Watch this site.

UN footnote -- and the United Nations is increasingly often only a footnote -- one wanted to ask Cameron where he thought the UN would be in the conflict he depicted. But the public Q&A session was too short and smacked of pre-determined. If reality's any guide, the UN would be offering humanitarian assistance on behalf of the invaders, after the invasion.

* * *

At UN, Ban Chooses Limousines Over Indigenous Drums, NGOs Complain of Exclusion

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 21 -- It was a tale of two UNs on Tuesday night: there was drumming and dancing in the General Assembly lobby as the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues began, while in the roped off elite area of the cafeteria, Israel sponsored a high security reception. Inner City Press was asked, which one did Secretary General Ban Ki-moon attend? The latter, was the answer, sending not an Under but Assistant Secretary General to address the assembled indigenous.

  In attendance amid the drumming, despite many registrants being absent due to flights canceled by the Iceland's volcano's ash, were a range of what's called civil society and that stratum of the UN staff which serve them. Nearly uniformly there was dissatisfaction with Ban Ki-moon's lack of engagement with non governmental organizations and "regular people," and about the increasingly lack of access to the UN by civil society.

  "He's taken the place back thirty years," a UN staffer said. Another wondered, even with the General Assembly building to remain open for the next two years, how long groups like the indigenous would be allowed to use the lobby. The Ban administration, an involved staffer disclosed, has asked that the exhibition walls in the lobby be removed so he can host a high level luncheon during this year's General Debate. The walls would not be reinstalled, and thus public exhibitions would cease.

  A coalition on NGOs recently wrote to Ban to complain about deceasing access and got back what they called a mere form letter.

The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Ban Ki-moon not shown

  The UN, including under Ban, pays lip service to the value of civil society. But for the past three years, representatives say, it has been implemented less and less. For how much longer, they wondered Tuesday night, will this UN allow the drums to beat? Watch this space.

Footnote: the head of the Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Inner City Press learned on Tuesday night, will be leaving the post this summer. The new chairman of the Forum, for the first time, was chosen by a government rather than civil society within his country. Things are changing at the UN, including at the Forum. Nothing, it seems clear, is Permanent. Reforms can be turned back as much as thirty years.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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