Ever try doing an Amazon.com search with the keyword “Caribbean”, and notice that the only thing that comes up is Pirates of the Caribbean? Well, last summer’s blockbuster comes up for a bit more criticism than hijacking my search for Caribbean books and music online.
There’s a controversial scene in the second installment of Disney’s series, Dead Man’s Chest, involving Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and a “native” population which, after Sparrow dons a little make-up and spews a little gibbrish, worships him like a kind of god. I’d like to hope that the filmmakers are doing a satire of Cortez and the Aztecs, given that Mexico was one of their locations. But perhaps one is asking too much. Dead Man’s Chest was also shot in Dominica, St. Vincent, and the Bahamas. Not surprisingly, then, it was heavily criticised by the Garifuna tribe and by the native Carib population of Dominica.
No-one’s lacking in a sense of humour, but one does not need to exert oneself to spot what the trouble might be in shooting that kind of scene in a movie that grossed over $423K at US Box Office alone and doesn’t have any immediate benefit either for the “third-world” countries in which they’re shot or the long-suffering, long-marginalised indigeneous people they, well, kind of exploit. Perhaps there is a kind of colonial economy of scale?
But (neo)colonialism has always been profitable, and in this case, it’s garnered the film four Oscar nominations for Visual Effects, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing and Art Direction. If nothing else, the visual effects were quite impressive. If you want to know if they win, check out the Academy Awards telecast on a channel near you on February 25th.