Avatar' in the Amazon
Condensed by Native Village
A group of Amazon indigenous leaders traveled to Quito to see "Avatar" on the
big screen in 3D.
For some, it's the first time they’ve ever been
to a theater. Some have never seen a movie.
A few look confused as
ushers hand them thick dark 3D glasses. The seats fill up,
so some sit on the aisle steps.
the lights go down.
Avatar tells the story of a planet called Pandora,
home to the indigenous Na’vi. They’re fighting to
protect their forests from a company set on mining a
rare mineral called “unobtaneum.”
“[Avatar] left a huge impression on us," said Mayra
Vega, 24, from the Women's Association of the SHuar
Nation. " It’s an example that makes us
think a lot because the indigenous are defending their
rights. We have to defend, just as
the indigenous so
clearly defended in the movie. We had an uprising; we
had a confrontation with gases. It’s the same as what we
just saw in the movie.”
Vega says just like in "Avatar," the Shuar are fighting
to protect their land from mining companies. And they’re
not the only ones.
The Kichwa Community of Sarayaku took on CGC, an
energy company in Argentina. Marlon Santi, president of
the National Indigenous Confederation of Ecuador, is
from Sarayaku. He sees his people's case as a real
life "Avatar", where the indigenous won over
the oil company. But unlike in "Avatar," they didn’t use
Another case involves the Waorani. Beneath their
territory in Yasuni National Park lies 846-million
barrels of oil. Yasuni is a biodiverse hotspot. Some
refer to it as a grand lung of the earth. Yasuni is also
home to uncontacted native groups who live in isolation.
Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa said he would block
drilling in Yasuni's pristine environment if the world
pays Ecuador more than $3,500,000,000 -- about half the
oil's value. But
recently questioned the deal, causing an
uproar at home.
Marlon Santi hopes
Correa will bow to public pressure and
preserve Yasuni. And he thinks
"Avatar" could help with that.
“Honestly, this is the first time I’m seeing this movie,
and it’s reality, what’s happening now just in another
dimension,” he said.
Some say one part of Avatar is not reality: the part
where the white guy sweeps to the rescue. Achuar leader Luis
Vargas says that’s to be expected.
“This is a Hollywood movie, so it’s practically a given
that a mestizo comes to the defense and leads [the
people] to triumph in the end," he said.
Fellow Achuar leader
Ernesto Vargas hopes other indigenous groups have a
chance to see it.
“Think of how much better it would be if we showed this
film to people who actually want to exploit petroleum,"
he said. "I
think it would serve them very well, even more than us.”
Ecuador’s President Correa saw the movie with
his children the day after it premiered in Ecuador. No
word yet on what he thought of it.