Times Celebrates James Cameron As Hero of Indigenous People on Front Page

The creator of "Avatar," which the Times calls "his epic tale of greed versus nature," is saving the indigenous people in Brazil, and threatens - um, promises, a sequel.

Sunday's front page included this oddity: a snake attack as "Avatar" director and newly minted environmentalist hero James Cameron was talking to a crowd of indigenous people by the Xingu River in Brazil in Alexei Barrionuevo's overly respectful report "Amazon Tribes Find Ally Right Out of 'Avatar.'" (Photo by the NYT's Andre Vieira.)


They came from the far reaches of the Amazon, traveling in small boats and canoes for up to three days to discuss their fate. James Cameron, the Hollywood titan, stood before them with orange warrior streaks painted on his face, comparing the threats on their lands to a snake eating its prey.

"The snake kills by squeezing very slowly," Mr. Cameron said to more than 70 indigenous people, some holding spears and bows and arrows, under a tree here along the Xingu River. "This is how the civilized world slowly, slowly pushes into the forest and takes away the world that used to be," he added.

As if to underscore the point, seconds later a poisonous green snake fell out of a tree, just feet from where Mr. Cameron's wife sat on a log. Screams rang out. Villagers scattered. The snake was killed. Then indigenous leaders set off on a dance of appreciation, ending at the boat that took Mr. Cameron away. All the while, Mr. Cameron danced haltingly, shaking a spear, a chief's feathery yellow and white headdress atop his head.

In the 15 years since he wrote the script for "Avatar," his epic tale of greed versus nature, Mr. Cameron said, he had become an avid environmentalist. But he said that until his trip to the Brazilian Amazon last month, his advocacy was mostly limited to the environmentally responsible way he tried to live his life: solar and wind energy power his Santa Barbara home, he said, and he and his wife drive hybrid vehicles and do their own organic gardening.

"Avatar" - and its nearly $2.7 billion in global tickets sales - has changed all that, flooding Mr. Cameron with kudos for helping to "emotionalize" environmental issues and pleas to get more involved.

Now, Mr. Cameron said, he has been spurred to action, to speak out against the looming environmental destruction endangering indigenous groups around the world - a cause that is fueling his inner rage and inspiring his work on an "Avatar" sequel.

Can't wait for that one, can you?

The focus is the huge Belo Monte dam planned by the Brazilian government. It would be the third largest in the world, and environmentalists say it would flood hundreds of square miles of the Amazon and dry up a 60-mile stretch of the Xingu River, devastating the indigenous communities that live along it. For years the project was on the shelf, but the government now plans to hold an April 20 auction to award contracts for its construction.

The Times never challenged Cameron's wacky metaphors (deadly snake = "civilied world"?) or suggested the oddity of a blockbuster movie director, with a blockbuster carbon footprint to match, as an environmentalist hero.