Monday, 22 February 2010 23:43

Avatar: The Environmental Message - James Cameron at NRDC fundraiser

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Tonight I had the exciting opportunity to attend the NRDC fundraiser featuring James Cameron and his movie Avatar. Although I knew that there were environmental messages in the movie, they didn't really sink in until I heard him speak. He showed 40 minutes of clips from Avatar at Fox Studios (in 3D!) and I had an entirely different emotional reaction then when I saw it in the theater. (It certainly helped that Cameron was sitting just a few rows in front of me!) The first time I saw the movie I was focused on the incredible special effects and the story, and was very impressed by them. This time, after hearing Cameron give a summary of the environmental message prior to the clips, it all became clear and I got chills. In fact, some scenes were very uncomfortable to watch the second time around (spoiler alert: when the magnificent tree falls down).

 
I was quite moved by what Cameron had to say, so here are my notes:
  • The environmental message was fully intentional and was one of the main reasons he made the film. He felt that in order to reach a global audience he had to make the movie in the "guise of entertainment", as opposed to the smaller audiences his documentaries attracted. He knows that creating an emotional reaction - eliciting "moral outrage" by taping into our "instincts at a primal level" - is the best way to get people to pay attention to an important matter, instead of "teaching or preaching". He felt that it was his duty to use the film for good. He wants people who see this movie to "see ourselves as nature sees us", and stated that the Na'vi are "an aspect of human nature", as are the antagonists: "good destroys evil in the film, and that gives us a sense of hope."
  • He realized during the making of Avatar that "nature's imagination was better than that of the greatest visual artists on the planet" - no matter how inventive they thought they were while designing the scenery, they could always find similar examples that already existed in nature.
  • One of the most fascinating parts was when Cameron spoke about his passion for being under water, and how that translated into the film. He pointed out how many of the plants, creatures, and colors are similar to what is at the bottom of the ocean. He conveyed the magical feeling of discovery and exploration he's experienced during dives.
  • He had a lot to say about how the world is handling the environmental mess we're in: "we take what we need and we ignore the consequences, but we can't longer ignore the consequences anymore". We can't continue doing "business as usual", even though change is overwhelming. He said, "when people have the information, it scares them" and "we, collectively as a society, live in denial". We need to realize that our actions have repercussions and everything we do makes a difference, for good or for bad.
  • Cameron closed the talk by saying that in order to make a change it will take "technology and social rearrangement".
Though I didn't go up to talk to him, I was happy to see that Cameron stayed for the entire reception to speak to the guests. I left with a lot of respect for him and will be rooting for Avatar during the Academy Awards!
 
If you haven't seen Avatar yet, make sure to see it in 3D (and iMax) before it leaves theaters! A few days ago I told a friend I didn't think I could see it again, but now I've changed my mind. ; )
 
When Cameron was done talking, NRDC president Frances Beinecke showed this great video they put together featuring great celebrity appearances like Leonardo DiCaprio.


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