India: The Avatar complex


James Cameron's blockbuster 3D epic about a distant world being bulldozed by mineral prospectors has resonated around the environmental and social rights communities. This has not been lost on campaign groups who have seized the chance to get their story out to a primed global audience.

Film critics may say the story is an unwieldy blunt instrument, but there's no doubt it's helped fuel and diversify a debate that's circled in its own footsteps for far too long. One native people's group that has latched on to the opportunity is Survival International.

The pages of Plant Talk have been filled with stories that echo with the sad tale of the Na'vi on Pandora, but perhaps the most startlingly similar is that of the Dongria Kondh in the Niyamgiri Hills in Orissa State, India. The Dongria are struggling to defend their sacred mountain from British FTSE-100 company Vedanta Resources who are determined to get at the rich bauxite (aluminium ore) seam.appeal to James Cameron by tribal people

In a powerful advertisement in Variety (film industry magazine) published today the Dongria appeal to James Cameron:

Avatar is fantasy...and real.

Survival have made a 10 minute film telling the story of the Dongria and other local Kondh people "Mine: story of a sacred mountain", which is narrated by Joanna Lumley.

Survival's Director Stephen Corry said: "Avatar - if you take away the multi-coloured lemurs, the long-trunked horses and warring androids - is being played out today in the hills of Niyamgiri in Orissa, India."

The company has faced a backlash from both the British government and a major shareholder, the Church of England, has pulled its stake out of the company. It remains to be seen if the growing public support for the Dongria will radically affect the outcome, or will a remote mountain paradise be dragged kicking and screaming into a modern world they are completely unprepared for.

Watch the film here

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