“Avatar” Offers Antiwar Activists Opportunity for Street Theater

Avatar could break records for attendance and box office— and it’s story lends itself beautifully to anti-war street theater that is incredibly easy. I did it.

When I finish a movie, one of the first things I ask myself is, “Was it satisfying?”

Avatar was sumptuously, deliciously, passionately satisfying. It is a fabulous movie that, in the opinion of this long-time Star Wars fan, could be the best science fiction/fantasy movie ever made.

It takes you for a ride to a new place, breaking new cinematic ground. That could be good or it could be strange. Avatar, with all it’s technology— 3D, Imax, CGI— takes us along and brings us into a world that is more intense, richer, brighter and closer (3D gets right in your face.)

The movie taps some of the classic Hollywood themes that audiences love— orphans and underdogs, a Romeo and Juliet forbidden love, rites of passage, evil corporations, stupid military thugs and a world that is shimmering with beauty and spiked with mortal dangers at every turn.

A science fiction story must create credible world and James Cameron has totally delivered on a magical place afflicted with human monsters and a handful of good guy scientists and one accidental traveller who, called almost by accident, when his brother who was supposed to do the job was killed.

This is a story about awakening as the hero is reborn, literally into a new body. Then he crosses the threshold into a totally new world and new body where he becomes alive like never before.

The storyline is built around an evil corporation that has gone to this gorgeous planet, Pandora, where it has no problem killing indigenous people, destroying their most precious cultural possessions. The corporation and its military personnel act horribly, killing wantonly, destroying some cultural icons, threatening to destroy the most sacred place on the planet, comparable to bombing Mecca or Jerusalem or the Vatican here on earth.

Does this sound like what Blackwater did in Iraq? Does it sound like the way the US is attacking the Taliban in Afghanistan? By the end, the audience has been totally offended by the militaristic support of corporate greed. The audience has spent 160 minutes falling in love with the indigenous people of Pandora, then watching military neanderthals heartlessly try to kill them and their most sacred place, where their deity resides.

Throughout the movie I kept thinking of a book by Robert Wolff, Original Wisdom, which described his experiences getting to know an indigenous tribe in the Malaysian forest which lives as close to the earth, with seeming psychic connections, as the people of James Cameron’s movie. That tribe is now extinct, wiped out by modernity.

Then the movie came to an end, as I said, very satisfyingly. But it hit me that all those people in the filled theater, on a matinee, were synched to sympathy for indigenous people. I thought about it for about a minute, then shouted out, as loud as I could, “This is what we’re doing in Afghanistan!’ Believe me, it embarassed the hell out of my 19 year old son who I’d taken with me to see the flick.

Almost instantly, someone replied, “And we’re winning.”

But, you see, in the movie, the people taking that perspective, were literally human monsters, psychopaths.

I see this movie as an unusual opportunity for street theater for Anti-war protesters. There’s good reason to believe that Avatar, Cameron’s follow up to Titanic, the all-time top grossing film, will break all records. Massive numbers of people will go to see it. If you haven’t seen it yet and you are against the Afghan war, give the shout a try. You might just reach people who have been prepped by those 160 minutes of emotion packed 3D effects. This movie is going to change the way movies are made. It’s going to break records. Why not also break a record for it being a film that inspired a groundswell of bottom up anti war, anti-corporate activism? It won’t be the first time. When Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911 came out, Moveon.org produced easily printable leaflets to hand out. I printed out ten, quickly gave them out and second laster, private police came rushing in, trying to find the source of them. There’s no risk of that here. Imagine if a handful of people coordinated calling out related shouts. It could be powerful. It might even make a difference. This could go viral and become a story all on its own.