In Review: Utopia

by Lauren Harrison on 14/11/2013


In his previous feature, The War You Don’t See (2010), documentary filmmaker John Pilger examined the British media’s handling of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan: a film that was both bold and ambitious in highlighting the deceit of today’s global media. Similarly, ‘Utopia’ focuses on the injustice and cover-ups within Australia towards its Aboriginal population and examines the country’s lack of understanding and know-how in solving what many senior officials regard as ‘The Aboriginal Problem’.

Pilger first visited Utopia (so-called from those who originally invaded Australia due to the vast green country land) during the making of his documentary, The Secret Country – The First Australians Fight Back (1985). There, he showcased the ongoing struggle that the Aboriginal people faced in terms of malnutrition, Third World-esque living conditions and how many were dying of completely treatable diseases. Almost 20 years later, ‘Utopia’ shows no sign of change. Pilger speaks to the same natives and it is saddening to watch as they all say how they feel worse off now, than they did before. Continually, the treatment and conditions are described by Pilger and Aboriginal doctors as ‘Dickensian’.

It is impossible to deny the natural passion and anger that Pilger feels towards Austrlia’s treatment of its original natives. Being Australian himself, the personal disdain he implements when addressing Australian governmental officials is coloured with frustration and the desire to understand WHY this level of neglect and WHY so many cover-ups are continuing within one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

Arguably, ‘Utopia’s most interesting and alarming scene is Pilger’s visit to the island of Rottenest – now posing as a luxury hotel and spa – formerly a British concentration camp for native Australians. One scene in which Pilger is told that 51 people died in the room he is standing in is both extremely powerful and incredibly emotive. The lack of humility, the lack of understanding and acknowledgement shows the dark and sinister side to Australia as we know it today.

‘Utopia’ is not an easy film to watch, but it is also incredibly necessary that you do so. It asks a great many questions – all of which are left unanswered. Pilger is strong-willed and passionate, and this is showcased in his technique and in his frustration at attempting to right the wrongs of a country that continues to deny the fact its problems lie in its government.

Lauren has awarded Utopia five Torches of Truth

5 torches

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