Utopia is a vast region in northern Australia and home to the oldest human presence on earth. ‘This film is a journey into that secret country,’ says Pilger in Utopia. ‘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’.
Pilger begins his journey in Sydney, where he grew up, and in Canberra, the nation’s capital, where the national parliament rises in an affluent suburb called Barton, recently awarded the title of Australia’s most advantaged community.
Barton is named after Edmund Barton, the first prime minister of Australia, who in 1901 introduced the White Australia Policy. ‘The doctrine of the equality of man,’ said Barton, ‘was never intended to apply to those who weren’t British and white-skinned.’ He made no mention of the original inhabitants who were deemed barely human, unworthy of recognition in the first suburban utopia.
One of the world’s best kept secrets is revealed against a background of the greatest boom in mineral wealth. Has the ‘lucky country’ inherited South African apartheid? And how could this happen in the 21st century? What role has the media played? Utopia is both a personal journey and universal story of power and resistance and how modern societies can be divided between those who conform and a dystopian world of those who do not conform.
Utopia draws on people and places Pilger first filmed 28 years ago during his long association with the indigenous people of his homeland. The evidence he produces is often deeply moving and shocking.
The film will come out in cinemas from 15 November.
By Nathan Thanki and Asad Rehman.
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