John Pilger's epic portrayal of Earth's oldest continuous human culture, Aboriginal Australians, and his investigation into Australia's suppressed colonial past and rapacious present.
Directed by John Pilger, Alan Lowery
Produced by John Pilger
Written and Presented by John Pilger
Editor: Joe Frost
Line Producer: Sandra Leeming
Director of Photography: Preston Clothier
Associate Producers: Paddy Gibson, Chris Graham
Research: Amy McQuire
Executive Producer: Christopher Hird
Produced in association with SBS-TV Australia
A Dartmouth Films Production
Following his hard-hitting documentary The War You Don't See, John Pilger's new film is a rare and powerful insight into a secret Australia and breaks what amounts to a national silence about the indigenous first people -- the oldest, most enduring presence on Earth.
"Anyone interested in Indigenous peoples, or Australia, or human rights, or ethnic relations needs to see Utopia." Thomas D. Hall, Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Anthropology, DePauw University
An epic film in its production, scope and revelations, UTOPIA reveals that apartheid is deep within Australia's past and present and that Aboriginal people are still living in abject poverty and Third World conditions, with a low life expectancy and disproportionately high rate of deaths in police custody.
About John Pilger
Starting his career as a journalist in his native Australia before moving to London, John Pilger has been the recipient of multiple awards, including Britain's highest award for journalism, twice, and television academy awards in both the UK and the United States. He has been a foreign correspondent and frontline war reporter, and is a regular contributor to international media, including the ITV Network, the Guardian and the New Statesman. An incisive and rare critic of Western economic and military power, Pilger's humane eyewitness reporting has been described as a unique presence on British television that explores where others dare not go.
Other films by John Pilger: The War You Don't See, The War on Democracy, Breaking the Silence, Stealing a Nation, New Rulers of the World, Palestine is Still the Issue, Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq, Inside Burma, and the four films in the Documentaries that Changed the World series: The Quiet Mutiny, Death of a Nation, Year Zero: The Silent Death of Cambodia, and Do You Remember Vietnam?.
Grade Level: 10 - 12, College, Adult
US Release Date: 2014
Copyright Date: 2013
DVD ISBN: 1-94154-508-4
"Utopia is a compelling, gripping, and unsettling portrait of Indigenous Australia. The images of sub-standard living conditions, abusive police practices, and dismal health standards are a powerful reminder of the legacy of colonialism and misguided government policies. Any measure of hope, according to the Indigenous voices in this film, can only come through respectful, active engagement with Indigenous communities. This is a 'must see' film for anyone interested in achieving justice for Indigenous peoples."
N. Bruce Duthu, Professor and Chair of Native American Studies, Dartmouth College, Author, American Indians and the Law and Shadow Nations: Tribal Sovereignty and the Limits of Legal Pluralism
"These scenes are vivid metaphors for the national denial of the larger reality that Aborigines remain 'refugees in our own country.' Utopia portrays the up-close and personal impacts of deplorable poverty, preventable blindness, suicide, death in 'protective' custody, and loss of land to destructive mining still suffered by Aboriginal people throughout Australia. The extensive analysis of the misleading basis for the recent military-police 'Intervention' in the Northern Territory is especially timely. This film makes a powerful case for a genuine Treaty between Aborigines and the federal government to end the injustices that have afflicted Australia's First Nations since European colonization began in 1788. My students need to see Utopia. I recommend it most highly. It is powerful and persuasive."
John H. Bodley, Professor Emeritus of Cultural Anthropology, Washington State University, Author of Cultural Anthropology: Tribes, States, and the Global
"Highly Recommended...The film is distinctive because it includes Aboriginal voices, does not shirk nuance and complexity, and seeks real solutions...Would support curriculum in anthropology, ethnic studies, policy studies, political science, and sociology. Students of history, human rights, area studies, environmental studies, and journalism will also benefit."
Wendy Highby, University of Northern Colorado, Educational Media Reviews online
"The research that underpins this compelling and important documentary is immaculate...It is, indeed, Australia's worst and darkest secret. It is also, and most profoundly, a story of resilience, of dignity, and of deep unbreakable connection with the earth. The insights and understandings that this film enables, not only about Australia but about the past and present of colonization and empire throughout the western world, should be made accessible to all and this documentary does just that. It is a vital resource for secondary and post-secondary teaching...and an essential resource in the toolkits of all those who seek to effect change in our world."
Dr. Makere Stewart-Harawira, Associate Professor, Indigenous, Environmental and Global Studies, University of Alberta, Author, The New Imperial Order: Indigenous Responses to Globalization
"Utopia is a powerful statement film...This is the saga of suffering, dispossession, alienation, racism and poverty suffered by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. The film highlights the complexity involved in telling a story about Australia that should involve all Australians. As a teaching tool, it is invaluable in beginning this conversation with students who are studying issues associated with colonization, politics and Indigenous history in Australia."
Dr. John Bradley, Associate Professor and Deputy Director, The Monash Indigenous Centre, Monash University
"Poignant and highly analytical...This film is not only a tool for educating about social justice issues but is also exemplary in modeling many facets of critical inquiry. There is much value added to this documentary making it particularly useful for both introductory and advanced scholarship. In particular, the film demonstrates how the conditions of history, politics, policies, economics, and dominant culture collate into contemporary social injustices. The film compels us to take a critical lens to the colonized/colonizer relations in our own backyards and to boldly and mindfully ask, 'Given our 'advanced' societies--Why does such injustice prevail?'"
Gail Baikie, Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, Dalhousie University
"Anyone interested in Indigenous peoples, or Australia, or human rights, or ethnic relations needs to see Utopia, his report on Australia's first people. It is a typical Pilger film: hard hitting, historically informed, grounded in evidence, intellectually stimulating, and emotionally moving."
Thomas D. Hall, Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Anthropology, DePauw University, Co-author, Indigenous Peoples and Globalization: Resistance and Revitalization
"This is a brutal and fabulous film. Utopia presents a portrait of Australia's past and present that few will be comfortable seeing but that all are duty bound to confront. In a simple, graphic and effective manner, this documentary recounts the historical processes and describes the contemporary realities of Aboriginal people. The account is disturbing, all the more because the filmmaker has simply held a mirror up in front of Australia, allowing the country to see the grotesque injustices of Aborigines living poor in the midst of the 'Lucky Country.'"
Mr. Ken Coates, Professor and Chair in Regional Innovation, School of Public Policy, Director, International Centre of Northern Governance and Development, University of Saskatchewan
"A captivating and hauntingly disturbing film as these actions are not simply historical incidents to be forgiven by some simplistic apology, but are actions that are occurring through the beginning of the Twenty-first Century without concern for essential human rights...Today, the First Nations of Australia are still discriminated against with all the resultant socio-economic problems that go along with the lack of good housing, education, and land and employment...Utopia addresses these issues directly, creating a picture of struggle and survival against the oppressive nature of a racist society."
Jim Miles, Foreign Policy Journal
"A troubling, eye-opening condemnation of Australia's own version of Apartheid...Highly recommended."
C. Cassady, Video Librarian
"John Pilger has created a hard-hitting investigation, balanced with extensive interviews, that calls openly for justice...A much needed call to act against racial prejudice and social ills, Utopia is worthy of the highest recommendation for public library collections."
The Midwest Book Review
"Utopia is informative, angry, and angering. It is a potent commentary on past and present policies that disenfranchised and continue to disenfranchise the original occupants of the Australian continent. If Pilger were an anthropologist, the film would be an example of 'engaged anthropology,' which does not stand idly by to document injustices but which joins on the side of the victimized and abused. The film obviously has implications for any settler society, including the United States, and should engender some lively if not heated discussions and arguments about historical culpability and future policies and relations. Level/Use: Suitable for high school classes and college courses in cultural anthropology, anthropology of colonialism, political anthropology, and Australian Aboriginal studies, as well as for general audiences."
Jack David Eller, Anthropology Review Database
"Extraordinary documentary...Pilger incisively and tenaciously reveals the brutal conquest and continued racist treatment of the Aboriginal people in Australia. Against this appalling historical documentation of conquest, discriminating and neglect, Pilger also highlights the continued resistance of the original inhabitants of the land stolen by British settlers."
Mark Karlin, Truthout
2-DVD package which includes more than four hours of additional interviews recorded during the filming of Utopia; booklet by Pilger biographer Anthony Hayward; original theatrical trailer. Also feature has SDH captions for the deaf and hard-of-hearing and scene selection.
The Film's Website
John Pilger's Website
Dartmouth Films Website
Awards and Festivals
Race and Racism
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... more Reviews
"As an examination of forgotten injustice it's quite simply essential viewing."
Lee Cassanell, Cine Vue
"[A] searing indictment of the ongoing mistreatment of the Aboriginal people...Pilger's powerful film has the unmistakable ring of truth."
Mark Kermode, The Observer
"A shocking and important piece of investigative journalism"
"Welfare neglect; police harassment; children state-stolen from mothers; occasionally a big, juicy enormity like the 'Intervention' (2007), when government troops invaded an Aborigine community on mere hearsay (soon exposed as lies) about child molestation. Pilger - good for him - confronts the politicos."
Nigel Andrews, Financial Times
"This is a documentary aiming to alert us all of a very modern, very current apartheid-like situation - one that is taking place in one of the richest and most developed countries of the 21st century. Do yourselves a favour and let Pilger take you on this journey of education, discovery and exposure into a world that Australia is trying eagerly to hide."
The London Film Review
"The awful truth is that Indigenous communities are on mineral-rich lands that cause mouths to water in mining corporation boardrooms...Pilger's film argues that the history of abuse and bullying, so far from being a closed chapter, is merely a prelude: it is set to get worse. This is a grim and powerful film."
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
"John Pilger's latest documentary repeatedly examines the disjuncture between the utopian fantasy of white Australia and the dystopian fantasy on which it is built."
Sight and Sound
"John Pilger offers a bloodboiling assessment of his homeland's relationship with its indigenous people in this doc."
Dave Calhoun, Time Out
"In a mind-blowing exposé - from lies about an Aboriginal pedophile ring to the blatant omission of the Frontiers War in museums - Pilger reinstates the secret histories of Australia."
Sunshine Wong, Sheffield Doc/Fest Program
"Thank heavens for John Pilger. For five decades the Australian journalist has been working hard at revealing the secret - and sometimes all too public - outrages that result from the corporatization of western democracy. If he gets up some people's noses, then that's as it should be."
The Irish Times
"Australia must acknowledge the horrors lurking in its own history...and admit to its continuing Aboriginal genocide. It's made harder by the deliberate ignorance of Australia's mainstream culture, politics and media. But with John Pilger's outstanding film, Utopia, the excuses are fast running out."
Fiona Broom, The Ecologist