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Where the Green Directors Dream

I just saw a certain movie the other night.

Tell me, does any of this sound familiar?

Big, greedy corporation is operating a mining operation right in the middle of aboriginal territory. They're mining for a very valuable mineral. The aborigines are not happy because the particular area where the mining people are working as the movie begins is encroaching on an area very sacred to the aborigines. The main character, works for the company, and is tasked with going out to reason with the aborigines and try to get them to move away from the mining site. He's unsuccessful. But the more he interacts with the aborigines, the more he sympathizes with them, to the point where the mining company asks him, whose side is he on? After the helicopters come, he goes native.

I happen to be on a Werner Herzog spree at the moment, renting every movie he's made since day one. He is one of the greatest and most unusual filmmakers around and I love his DVD's, not only for the films, but for his commentary.

The Herzog movie that arrived in the Netflix envelope was a 1984 film called Where the Green Ants Dream. (Rent it from Netflix.)

I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I was stunned. Not because the movie is that superb, it's not that, but it is a very good and different film with some thoughtful ideas. No, the reason I was stunned because it kept reminding me of Avatar!

So check this out.

The movie opens way, way, out in the outback, in Coober Pedy, Australia, in a huge area that is being mined for uranium (as opposed to "unobtainium"). In real life, this really is a mine, where over many years they've drilled for opals.

But in the movie, it's uranium.

The action takes place almost entirely out here in this bleak, very hot environment.

One day they're just about to do some detonations, and the geologist, played by Bruce Spence (who happens to be 6 foot 7 inches tall), drives out to find out why some aborigines are standing near where the detonations are about to go off.

These are the two aborigine leaders. They pretty much always have their spears with them.

They try reasoning with the aborigines but get nowhere. One of the curmudgeonly company men (the guy in orange jump suit here) is not pleased at all with with the aborigines and what he views as their crazy beliefs and culture. (If you've seen Avatar, you know who this sounds like.)

At one point he climbs on his bulldozer and heads straight for the aborigines who are staging, one could say, a sit-in. The bulldozer almost covers them with a mountain of dirt, but at the last moment --

-- the geologist comes storming after the bulldozer demanding that he stop immediately.

The geologist and the bulldozer operator exchange words. Note the geologist is symbolically beginning his transformation - he's holding his "spear". (And note how frickin' tall he is!)

The geologist tries to show respect and listen to them and reason with them, but he doesn't get anywhere.

And so the company takes them to court ion Melbourne. (Once again, note how tall the geologist is.) The aborigines lose.

While in Melbourne they get stuck in an elevator twice.

But they take a liking to a particular green airplane at the Melbourne airport. The company agrees to give them the plane. So it's flown out to Coober Pedy.

At one point one of the chiefs climbs the plane and goes out on a wing with his spear.

Another shot showing how TALL the main character is.

Two of the aborigines take off in the plane and disappear.

The helicopters arrive to go find them, but they don't.

Frustrated, the geologist seems to give up, seems to turn his back on Australian civilisation, and goes walkabout.

At the end he walks off into the horizon and points unknown.

So I wonder. Did James Cameron, who would have been working on the first Terminator film when this film came out, ever see this? Yes, it's been pointed out all over the place how much Avatar pulls from other stories, including Aliens, Dances with Wolves, Pocahontas, and The Last Samurai. Well, here is another film to ponder. And I sure would love to know if Cameron has seen it.

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