Celebrities Care, Too: James Cameron’s Real-Life Avatar

Some films are just for entertainment purposes, but others make a statement. Avatar, the highest grossing film in history, is an example of visually powerful narrative connected to a deeper theme of the harmful impact of industrialization and ecoterrorism. For director James Cameron, it was important examine “how we as a Western technological civilization deal with indigenous cultures; we basically supplant them. If not in an active, genocidal way, then in a passive manner. They just kind of wither away.

While some movie-goers are depressed that Pandora (the fictional planet on which the Avatar takes place) does not really really exist, the story of Avatar is leaping off of the silver screen and transplanting itself into real life–and Cameron is involved in the fight.

The Belo Monte Dam in Brazil
“I’m drawn into a situation where a real-life ‘Avatar’ confrontation is in progress… What’s happening in ‘Avatar’ is happening in Brazil and places like India and China, where traditional villages are displaced by big infrastructure projects,” said Cameron in an Associated Press interview.

This week, Cameron is in Brazil not only to promote the DVD release of Avatar, but also to meet with thirteen indigenous tribes protesting the Belo Monte dam.

Located in the heart of the rainforest on the Xingu river, the world’s third largest hydroelectric dam is set to be built in 2015. In addition to land devastation and damage to fish stocks, as many as 40,000 people will be affected.

“‘It’s not like there is any pressure on me or anything,’” [Cameron] said, half-joking, moments before boarding the boat to leave. “‘These people really are looking for me to do something about their situation. We have to try to stop this dam. Their whole way of life, their society as they know it, depends on it.’”

The Brazilian government argues that the dam will provide electricity to 23 million people and that the dam will curb greenhouse gas emissions. This is a sharp contrast to the reasons why the dam construction must be stopped according to a letter from James Cameron sent to Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva. Peter Bosshard summarizes the letter in an article:

If built, the dam will leave a 100 kilometer stretch of the Xingu without water and wildlife. The diversion will prevent migratory fish from reaching the Upper Xingu, where they are an important part of the diet of the indigenous communities. The dam’s reservoir will force an estimated 20,000 people from their homes, and will spread malaria and other waterborne diseases in the region. Far from producing clean energy, the Belo Monte reservoir will emit large amounts of methane – a greenhouse gas much more aggressive than carbon dioxide. To top it off, the dam will only attain its large electricity potential if additional dams are built upstream to regulate the river’s flow throughout the year.

James Cameron has been successful in stirring up negative publicity for the project and while the high cost of the dam is claimed to to be the reason, some companies that were expected to bid on constructing the dam have backed out. President Lula remains adamant about the dam being built, however: “It’s important to be loud and clear about this — we will build Belo Monte with or without [private companies].

Neither side plans to back down and it seems that, more than lights and camera, James Cameron is all about the action.

You can take action, too! Sign the petition urging President Lula to not build the Belo Monte Dam.

Photo Courtesy of Istockphoto.com


charmaine c.
Charmaine C7 years ago

If you want to see what the possible outcome of this dam can be, then google 3 Gorges Dam in China. 1.24 million people were displaced and another 4 million have been asked to move further away from the dam. It has flooded one of the most beautiful areas in the world and caused the functional extinction of plants and animals specific to that region. The power of money to override every speck of common sense and decency in humanity is truly frightening. Good for James Cameron!

johan l.
paul l7 years ago

James Cameron is probably the one person with enough influence to persuade the powers that be in Brazil, not to go ahead with building of this un-ecological dam.
Besides, the people that are influenced are also Brazilians aren't they?
I hope James C. gets many, many people involved!

Nellie K A.
Nellie K Adaba7 years ago

that movie was great but I read that he took some elements from the Smurfts (in French Schtroumpfs, by Belgian comic artist/author Peyo) and Dances with Wolf. It did not win an Oscar due to its environmentally conscious theme andp eople do not want ot face the truth!

Evelyn Milburn
Evelyn Milburn7 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Roxana C.
Roxana Cortijo7 years ago

The need for energy has to be tackled, and hydroelectrical energy is not that bad (as compared to fosil fuels, gas, etc.). Yet, whatever infrastructure is to be built it has to take the environment into consideration. We cannot and should not compromise the lifes of many in order to favor a few who are only interested in the profits the can obtain.

Laura P.
Past Member 7 years ago

noted and signed. good for james cameron.

Dianne D.
Dianne D7 years ago

Everyone should have a say, especially those who will be effected by the change. This is oviously big business trying to bully the small guy. I don't take stock in celebrities, but if they use their name for good, then I support them. They can lend a voice to those who can't be heard.

Joseph Belisle
Joseph Belisle7 years ago

Great movie but I couldn't enjoy it because of the reality that it represents. In the movie the good guys win. In reality they never have. Some win temporary reprieves like independence movement in India but the barbarous oppressors always win out.
Not until the populace wakes up and stands against this will it stop.

Nice article.

And kudos for Cameron. At least he is trying.

Lorelai R.
Lorelai Ross7 years ago

Hooray for james Cameron, for using his talents for good! is there a petition being written in protest of the dam? I hope so, i'd certainly sign it. People don't realize that a lot of hydro electric power is not truly 'green'. Worse, this dam is catastrophic to one of our most sensitive wild areas, and the people that live in it.

gail d.
gail dair7 years ago

thanks for post