Review: Utopia, John Pilger documentary

For the first time ever I rented a HD film online through iTunes – Utopia by John Pilger. The documentary is currently doing a limited cinema run and will be on ITV (UK) next month.

I’m quite a fan of Pilger as through his film-making and writing he tackles uncomfortable subjects with a hard-hitting combo of facts and emotive narrative, so I didn’t want to wait for this, particularly as I don’t make much time for TV.

Essentially, Utopia is a 2-hr documentary of Pilger’s homeland that documents the ongoing injustice against the indigenous people. Australia is a rich country, but this universal comfort does not extend to the aboriginals. They live in dirty ramshackle houses with no indoor showers, broken toilets and limited access to healthcare. Particular diseases like glue ear obviously affect education prospects and this leads to the commonly known trap of substance and alcohol abuse.

The valiant aboriginal battle against settlers is not commemorated even though it’s an integral part of Australian history. Cross-party collusion to remove the race discrimination act in order to harass and rekindle aboriginal baby stealing by painting virtually all aboriginal men as paedophiles is a particularly nasty episode, and the government had eyes on exploiting natural resources from their territory.

While there are many good Australians, there have been and are many unsavoury characters in the government. Many Australians in the big cities are fairly ignorant of their own history and their fellow black Australians. To paraphrase one person interviewed, the country is virtually like apartheid Africa minus clear labelling of designated areas for blacks.

In true Pilger style, the documentary is powerful because we’re shown the testimony of people, the denial and arrogance of politicians, and the good heart of a number white Australians. At many times it’s very difficult to watch, but I learnt a lot from it and Australians could find it could force them to look in the mirror. Pilger concludes that Australia cannot remain a comfortable country for the settlers if it cannot be so for the original Australians. Pilger had not intended to make another documentary on his country after one in 1985 but was compelled to and found it surprising how similar the footage was between the 80s and now.

iTunes have it for £3.99 as an SD rental, and 50p more for HD. If you want to buy it you can pre-order it for £9.99 (SD)/£13.99 (HD) for Dec 2 download.

I’m not sure I could watch it again – as I’m allowed to many times within 48hrs – but I’m glad I saw it once and would highly recommend it to others.

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