For James Cameron, green is the new blue.
The Canadian-born filmmaker stumbled upon his own Pandora — the edenic fantasy world of his megafilm Avatar populated by indigo-tinged aliens who battle humans to save their habitat — during a press tour of Brazil last month. And not unlike Avatar hero Jake Sully, Cameron joined the country’s Amazonian tribes in their protest against plans to build a dam that could displace thousands of indigenous people.
“It was life-changing. By a long series of events, finding myself in what is like a real-life Avatar-like drama, it was pretty amazing,” Cameron tells Metro over the phone from Los Angeles.
The Hollywood powerhouse is currently in full eco-activist mode. The Avatar website now hosts plenty of information about environmental issues and Cameron’s company will sponsor the planting of a million trees around the world. Fans of the film are being urged to help out in the green drive when they buy the DVD or Blu-Ray, which go on sale today to coincide with Earth Day.
Cameron, a native of Kapuskasing, Ont., is also throwing his weight behind opposition to the controversial Athabasca oilsands project in Alberta and is openly critical of the Canadian government for not doing enough for renewable energy. He will be attending the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York this Saturday where he intends to learn more about the issue.
Despite the newfound environmentalism, Cameron remains a director at heart. He has already filmed his visits to Brazil and wants to return to the country’s tribal areas to “shoot more stuff, maybe even in 3-D.”
“(It will be) less about protesting the dam and more about chronicling their culture and their concerns, the way the civilized world is encroaching on them … roll that into a documentary which may have its own life separate from the DVD release and/or we may have some cut-piece that goes into the special edition DVD in November,” the 56-year-old director says.
Cameron also admits that his recent experiences will probably end up influencing the Avatar sequel, for which he has already chalked up a rough story.
But as far as Cameron’s approach to filmmaking goes, there’s one thing that won’t change — the emotional heft that underpins all his movies.
Cameron attributes the success of his films to his ability to make the audience relate to his characters and storylines. He insists that Avatar became the top-grossing film of all time because it was “firing on all eight cylinders” and not just 3-D effects.
“My films have been criticized sometimes for being simplistic. I think they operate on multiple levels. I think the surface level is very clear, so the audience is always well grounded in … what they are supposed to be feeling. As a filmmaker, I am not afraid to go for an emotional response. I think some filmmakers are. They need to be cool. I’m not afraid to be uncool,” Cameron says.