Where the Green Ants Dream (1984)



In Where the Green Ants Dream, Werner Herzog takes on the plight of the Australian aborigines. I can think of no recipe more sure to yield sorrow and misanthropy. And, just as I expected, Herzog delivers a filled-to-the-brim bedpan of injustice.

The story is simple: a mining company is looking for the next big commodity. The on-site geologist, Lance Hackett, is expected to take care of a lot of tasks that aren’t really in his job description, most notably dealing with the human element of the project. Aside from the batty old woman who camps out by his trailer waiting for her lost dog to come home, Hackett must deal with a group of indigenous people protesting the exploration of their land. They believe this greenantstechparticular parcel of land is where the green ants dream, and if we disturb their sleep it will mean the end of mankind as we know it.

Hackett seems exasperated at first, but he begins to study more about Aboriginal culture, and actually tries talking with some of the protesters about their beliefs. Hackett’s attitude turns around, though not wholly; after all, his livelihood is dependent upon the company’s success finding whatever it is their looking for on this land. Eventually, the Aborigines take their case to court. A court, of course, of white men who answer to The Crown. While the whole court knows the right thing

In court. No one understands his language, because he is the last of his tribe.

In court. No one understands his language, because he is the last of his tribe.

to do is to stop the company from exploring on Aboriginal land, the law disagrees, and so the Aborigines lose the case.

There are, of course, subtleties involved that make this story a lot more compelling than any synopsis can. There are plenty of classically-Herzog philosophical monologues that inevitably get you thinking about the nature of colonialism, the “ownership” of land, and the seemingly futile struggle indigenous peoples the world over are left to fight. It will make you both sad and angry, but it is definitely a film people should see. It’s easy to forget that the modern world is still relatively new, and the repercussions of our way of life are unknown.

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