Woah, it’s my first post of 2023, yet I am reflecting on the project and winter exhibition from 2022. In class we watched the movie Avatar, which came out in 2009, and did you know it took 15 years to complete the movie? It was worth it though because Avatar was nominated for 9 Oscars and won 3.
Now, there are definitely a lot of layers to this movie and as a class, after watching it, we pulled themes from the movie that we felt related to the real world. Then we each picked one theme to create a short documentary about. The themes to choose from were:
Imperialism + Colonialism
Corporate Greed (Corporate interests outweighing local rights)
Sustainability/Destruction of Natural Environment over Humanity’s interests
Racism – Lack of understanding for different cultures/ways of being
Exploration – Terrestrially/Space Travel
Oppression – Forced Evictions
Originally, I chose the theme corporate greed, but after a couple of classes I realized I wouldn’t be able to create a video around it, so Mackenzie and I chose to switch themes from corporate greed to racism. After I switched I started brainstorming ideas for my film and I knew I wanted my documentary to show how racism affects peoples’ lives and shapes their identity.
Every film needs a story board to get one’s ideas out, but in our videos we needed to have b-roll, and without having an interview done yet I didn’t know what my b-roll would be (b-roll is basically just images that are presented on the screen that help tell the story.) As a result my storyboard ended up unfinished.
Since I was done planning my film I needed to find an interviewee who had experienced racism. I started thinking of people I could interview but got stumped, then I thought I could ask my dad; however, I really wanted to hear from someone new or who I didn’t know much about. Luckily, my mom reached out to her friend and colleague named Shelly and I ended up securing an interview with her. Although, this did change the whole direction of my documentary. Shelly is a teacher so when I knew I was going to interview her I changed some of my interview questions to be more directed to schools and how kids can be better educated about racism.
I am thankful for Shelley opening up and sharing her experiences with me. What immediately struck me was how surprised I was to hear her stories and how racism is more common than I thought and how it can come in many forms. What stood out most was that even in Shelly’s many years of teaching she has not seen many people stand up against racism.
Upon reflection, this project has helped deepen my understanding of my role and responsibility in fighting against and interrupting patterns of racism. Even if it is awkward to try and take a stand to interrupt racism it is important to let people know they aren’t alone. Another thing that grounded me is hearing that her first experience with racism was at my age. I thought it was more adults experiencing racism, as that is what I have seen more on the news. Shelly and I talked about how it’s only been the last few years that racism has been intentionally addressed at schools. Our conversation reminded me I am not immune.
After I interviewed Shelly I was quickly off to start editing my final video on the app called Capcut. It took me a few days to finish it but I finally did! Here it is:
Every movie theme had their own room where their work would be showcased. Each room also had a different setting, and while I forgot to take photos of most of them here are some examples:
Because the racism group was quite big we got split up into two groups; Sofia, Dylan, Keira and I got to decorate and present in the back of the library and the other half presented in the front. To keep the exhibition fun and engaging we had to create a game for our room. Since there were 2 racism groups we decided to make the games similar but we also wanted to make things purposely more difficult and with less advantages for one of them. The Blue Room’s (my group) game was going to be more difficult than the Anything But Blue Room, which was in the front of the library where Susan, Silas, and Mackenzie were. This was to demonstrate the inequality of society and how people with differences are treated as lesser. Our room had the disadvantage and it related to the driving theme of our room which was: James Cameron’s fantasy world of Avatar reveals that often times, people of different races are oppressed.
Before we started decorating the actual room we needed a layout. But we didn’t create it on our own. During particular classes we were given the opportunity to collaborate with some of the grade 8s. The grade 8s in my group were Tate, Caelum, Lucas, Gabby, and Hazel. I am not super familiar about what they had to create, but from what I know they decorated a shoe box to represent a theme from Avatar just like our documentaries did. Of course, all the grade 8s in our group chose the theme racism.
The grade 9s also painted viewing boxes that we put our iPads in, so the sound would be projected in the box. On the day of, we pulled our room together and it ended up looking pretty good in my opinion. It was kind of hard to take photos of our room since everything was quite busy but here are a few photos from the exhibition: My friend Gwen and I with our boxes!
Overall, I am proud of what we pulled off, as this project was go, go, go and I narrowly got everything done on time. I enjoyed working with the grade 8s and they did a great job at the exhibition. I am going to finally address the driving question of the project: “What does James Cameron’s fantasy world of Avatar reveal about our society today?” First of all, Avatar reminds us that society is full of inequality, for instance, many people with power think they have all the control. This is seen in the movie when Colonel Miles Quaritch doesn’t listen to any of the scientists who think making the Na’Vi move locations and ruining the environment is wrong. His greed for obtaining the unobtanium, which is an expensive mineral, to make money is something we see in our society regularly. For example, often in politics it’s hard to know or trust who is telling the truth as often it appears certain politicians are greedy for power or wealth. Sometimes we question whether they acknowledge the voice of everyday citizens and so conflict happens. An additional example of comparing Avatar to today’s social inequality is that it also could be seen that the dominant culture (humans) think it automatically has the power to get the minority (the Na’Vi) to conform and adjust to their ways.
Another real life connection I can make is to the Coastal Gaslink pipeline situation. The Wet’suwet’en’s humans rights are being violated by the construction of the pipeline. The Wet’suwet’en people were offered no prior consent that the pipeline was going to be built on their land which shows the disrespect to indigenous people. A similar thing happens in Avatar, where the humans wanted to get the unobtanium and had not asked permission or consent to do so. The humans ended up killing many Na’Vi and destroying nature by forcing their way to get to the unobtanium which was also located under the home tree where the Na’Vi were living at the time. The prioritization of human interest over the sustainability of our environment is also seen with the Wet’suwet’en, as explained in the article, Canada: Construction of pipeline on Indigenous territory endangers land defenders which states that one of their last source of clean water and salmon spawning grounds is the The Wedzin Kwa River, may be comprised by the pipeline.
The same themes that are shown in the first movie Avatar are also continued in the second movie called Avatar: The Way Of The Water which came out December 16th, 2022. In Avatar: The Way Of The Water the humans killed the Tulkan. They killed the Tulkun to get a single dose of a fluid that stops aging that’s worth 80 million dollars. Then they left the Tulkun in the ocean along with their equipment used to kill it. This is similar to when they wanted to get the unobtanium for the money. This is another example of prioritizing what humans want over sustaining the environment and its natural resources.
To wrap up the project we went to the movie theatres to watch the new Avatar in the theatres 8:30 am. We, as in all PLP classes (minus a few people who didn’t go) it was a very full theatre but I enjoyed watching the movie and hanging put with my friend’s afterwards. Thank you for reading!