A Handbook of Contemporary Research
Research Handbooks in Intellectual Property series
Edited by Matthew Rimmer
Chapter 7: Avatar dreaming: Indigenous cultural protocols and making films using Indigenous content
In November 2009, my ten-year-old son put a yellow post-it note on the fridge door. It said 30 days until Avatar. The next day, the post-it note was replaced with another. This continued each day, as he counted down the days until Avatar the movie was to be released in Australian cinemas. I must admit I had no idea about the movie until my son’s communications. Further, I had no knowledge of the movie’s theme until I saw the movie. I watched it and was entertained, yet identified a strong parallel of the movie’s plot to the plight of Indigenous people worldwide. The film’s plot reflected the dispossession of Indigenous people’s land and resources at the hands of colonisers. It also drew on common cultural practices of international Indigenous people for characterisation and the identity of the Na’vi people. As an Indigenous person, my reaction was one of emotion and pride for Indigenous resilience. The Indigenous themes were obvious to me and reflective of a plight that continues today. Avatar made $2.7 billion worldwide at the box office. It was considered a leader in 3D technology. There was a blue ray release, extended cuts, books and merchandising. Two years later, I read of several claims against the filmmaker James Cameron’s company which alleged copying.
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