Where the Green Ants Dream
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Aborigines fight a uranium-mining company in court over tribal land linked to a legend. Directed by Werner Herzog.
Director Werner Herzog is famous for the deranged physical feats he captures in his movies, but Where the Green Ants Dream tackles an even greater challenge: The gap between the Western mind and Australian aboriginal cosmology. In the Australian outback, a geologist for a mining company (Bruce Spence, The Road Warrior, Aquamarine) finds his work obstructed by aborigines who tell him that his explosive tests will disrupt the dreaming of the green ants and wreak havoc on humanity. The mining company tries to mollify the aborigines, but they implacably resist. The confrontation escalates to a lawsuit argued before the Australian supreme court (which is based on the first legal battle over aboriginal land rights). This may sound dry--and much of the film is bathed in gusts of red Australian dust--but throughout the film, the geologist struggles to communicate with the aborigines and grasp the fundamentally different perception of the world. His glimpse (and ours) of this other worldview turns Western civilization on its side and leads the geologist to question his whole life. Herzog (Aguirre: The Wrath of God, Grizzly Man) isn't subtle, but that doesn't diminish the often hypnotic power of his images, from footage of tornados to the faces of the aborigines, gentle as water yet as firm as stones. This is a worthy addition to Herzog's difficult, thrilling, maddening, and ultimately rewarding body of work. --Bret FetzerSee all Editorial Reviews
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The culture of the white man is based squarely on the scriptural injunction "And man was given dominion over all things upon this earth" (Genesis 1:26). "Dominion" leads to domination, and it is the rage to dominate which has spawned a Culture of Violence (very much in evidence in the movie with its shots of heavy machinery and its landscapes devastated by mining operations), a culture that has now overspread the whole world and threatens to bring all life to an end.
In direct contrast to the white man's aberrancy, the Aborigine, whose more sane world-view has enabled him to survive the harsh and arid desert environment of Australia for 40,000 years, sees himself not as having been given "Dominion" but as having been given Guardianship. For him the earth and its creatures are sacred, and he sees it as his duty to guard and preserve this precious inheritance so that it might be passed on intact and unspoiled to future generations. Here is how he views the white man:
"You white men are lost. You don't understand the land. Your presence on this earth will come to an end. You have no sense, no purpose, no direction."
The Aborigines feel themselves to be of the land. They feel, in a very deep way that perhaps we will never understand, that they have sprung from the land and that they _are_ the land. It is the land that gives them their being and their identity. Without it they are nothing.
During the land rights trial which the Aborigines hope will restore their rights and help them bring an end to the rape and spoliation of their land, a white witness makes this point:
"Progress? Here you talk about progress over and over again. And where does it lead the Aborigine? It is progress into nothingness."
But the truth of the matter is that our much-lauded 'Progress' is not only leading the Aborigine into nothingness, it is leading all of us into nothingness. Our Culture of Violence has spawned an Industrial juggernaut which is rapidly (and quite deliberately) turning the planet into a polluted and ravaged wasteland, and this orgy of destruction must inevitably result in the extinction of all life.
'Where the Green Ants Dream' is an extremely relevant movie that I have no hesitation in recommending to the thoughtful, and to those who are not in denial about the true nature of the modern world.