In new documentary Utopia, the Australian journalist John Pilger sets out to examine the suffering felt by his native country’s indigenous population, a problem caused by the British Empire’s colonisation of Australia.
Pilger’s film is a noble attempt to highlight the poverty and awful living conditions felt by the Aboriginal people, an issue that most of the world – and Australia’s European descendants – remain blissfully unaware of. This is made evident when Pilger interviews individuals whilst they are celebrating Australia Day, enquiring as to what the original population should take away from the country’s national day. Each interviewee shows incredible ignorance of the subject, stating that the Aboriginal’s want to live that way – in shacks with no running water or functioning toilet. Pilger also conducts interviews with members – past and present – of Australia’s government whose job it was to protect these people, and failed. Footage of Aboriginal living conditions today compared with that filmed several decades ago seems to show that nothing has changed at all.
In Utopia, Pilger firmly asserts that for such a wealthy country, Australia’s indigenous people should not be living this way; and that, this vast land was in fact never for the taking in the first place. These are issues that everyone should know about, but with a long running time combined with a slow, ponderous pace, the film may not appeal to the audiences that need to be informed.
UTOPIA is in cinemas from 15 November with a Nationwide Q&A with John Pilger on Monday 18 November at Picturehouse Cinemas. Available on DVD 2 December