The name “John Pilger” attached to a film means it probably won’t be a hymn to colonialism’s happy heritage. The Aussie documentarist will stand in a sun hat, eviscerating a national or ancestral outrage. In Utopia it’s the oppression of the Aborigines. “The longest human presence on Earth” (he says) is still systematically maltreated by a country that resents the people that got there first.
When the subject and subjects are allowed to speak for themselves – when Pilger doesn’t stand and preach – the injustices glow like throbbing wounds. 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. Pilger – less good for him – goes on too long. 110 minutes is a hefty time in screen politics, especially when we know the makers’ message from scene one.