Invictus

Why the Oscars are a con

‘This year’s Oscar nominations are a parade of propaganda, stereotypes and downright dishonesty. The dominant theme is as old as Hollywood: America’s divine right to invade other societies, steal their history and occupy our memory. When will directors and writers behave like artists and not pimps for a world-view devoted to control and destruction?

I grew up on the movie myth of the Wild West, which was harmless enough unless you happened to be a Native American. The formula is unchanged. Self-regarding distortions present the nobility of the American colonial aggressor as a cover for massacre, from the Philippines to Iraq. I only fully understood the power of the con when I was sent to Vietnam as a war reporter. The Vietnamese were “gooks” and “Indians”, whose industrial murder was preordained in John Wayne movies and left to Hollywood to glamourise or redeem.

I use the word murder advisedly, because what Hollywood does brilliantly is suppress the truth about America’s assaults. These are not wars, but the export of a gun-addicted, homicidal “culture”. And when the notion of psychopaths as heroes wears thin, the bloodbath becomes an “American tragedy” with a soundtrack of pure angst …

My Oscar for the worst of this year’s nominees goes to Invictus, Clint Eastwood’s unctuous insult to the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. Based on a hagiography of Mandela by a British journalist, John Carlin, the film might have been a product of apartheid propaganda. In promoting the racist, thuggish rugby culture as a panacea of the “rainbow nation”, Eastwood gives barely a hint that many black South Africans were deeply embarrassed and hurt by Mandela’s embrace of the hated springbok symbol of their suffering. He airbrushes white violence – but not black violence, which is ever present as a threat. As for the Boer racists, they have hearts of gold, because they “didn’t really know”. The subliminal theme is all too familiar: colonialism deserves forgiveness and accommodation, never justice. At first I thought Invictus could not be taken seriously, but then I looked around the cinema at young people and others for whom the horrors of apartheid have no reference, and I understood the damage such a slick travesty does to our memory and its moral lessons. Imagine Eastwood making a happy-Sambo equivalent in America’s Deep South. He would not dare’. – John Pilger

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