The only thing these two movies have in common is that I recently saw each movie. Both of these movies also have some interesting and vastly different views of dispute resolution. Avatar is the classic tale of corporate/colonial greed at the expense of a native population. Some of the humans take the form of avatars so they can more easily “get to know” the locals. From the corporation’s perspective the only reason to do this is to find out how to get the natives out of the way of the mining operation on the planet. I won’t give away the story except to say that James Cameron takes an unfortunate positional approach and his characters don’t engage in any real interest-based discussions, much less creative thinking or brainstorming. It is not an awe-inspiring example of how to engage in cross-cultural negotiation. Some reveiwers also criticize how the film deals with race (for an example see: http://io9.com/5422666/when-will-white-people-stop-making-movies-like-avatar ). But, the 3D was amazing.
In contrast, Invictus is a film that shows wonderful examples of the potential of dispute resolution and reconciliation. It is the true story of Nelson Mandela, the South African Rugby Team, and the 1995 Rugby World Cup. The movie illustrates some of the challenges Mandela and South Africa faced to encourage reconciliation both on a personal and a national level in the years immediately following apartheid. Mandela knew that symbols mattered and that national reconciliation needed to happen on many levels, including in sports. Mandela also understood the importance of getting to know “the other.” The film includes some interesting exchanges when Mandela explains to his supporters how rugby matters, particularly to Afrikaners, and why he is risking political capital on the game. Director Clint Eastwood often deals with the impact of conflict. Some of his other films (such as Unforgiven) seem to carry the message that violence leads to more violence and that revenge is the only response to conflict. This film carries a very different message about the potential of reconciliation and how good leadership can make a difference. And, both Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman give amazing performances.
Avatar and Invictus are worth seeing if you are looking for movies for the upcoming holiday weekend. Happy New Year!