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Journalist John Pilger takes his cameras into the depths of the Aboriginal community to film Utopia. The results are shocking

It makes for powerful viewing. Every shot of the 110-minute film Utopia delivers an uncomfortable message. Or, as theaward-winning movie director and journalist John Pilger puts it, an airing of the country’s “dirty secrets”.

The film offers a glimpse into the lives of an Aboriginal community in an area of northern Australia ironically called Utopia – home to the oldest human presence on earth. Australian Pilger describes Utopia as: “A journey into that secret country. It will describe not only the uniqueness of the first Australians, but their trail of tears and betrayal and resistance – from one utopia to another.”

It opens with horrific scenes of brutality against Aboriginals, and continues to explore the unjust way in which the indigenous population has been treated, and continues to be treated, by politicians, by the media, by the public. Shooting the movie took Pilger back to Utopia, the poorest part of Australia, where he filmed The Secret Country in 1985 – that was considered a landmark movie, inspiring the setting up of the first indigenous memorial in the National Gallery of Australia.

However, 28 years on, he revisits some of the people and places to find little has changed.

Pilger’s Utopia was previewed at London’s Curzon Sohoin the West End on November 4, where he will also made an appearance and took questions. As well as in cinemas, it will also be screened on ITV. Here, he speaks to TNT.

After 28 years, what has changed in Utopia?

My colleague, Paddy Gibson, the film’s associate producer, made a study of what had changed since The Secret Country was shown in 1985. The short answer is very little. Yes, a new and tiny ‘middle class’ has arisen, but its co-option by non indigenous Australia – by government, business and academia – is striking, producing articulate people telling white Australia what it wants to hear. That’s vintage colonialism; what is different is that it’s unrecognised in Australia.


The dark side of Australia
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