The renowned filmmaker James Cameron, director of great successes such as Avatar and Titanic, said he felt ambushed in his visit to Jujuy and took aim at the governor of Jujuy and pre-candidate for president in the internal Together for Change, Gerardo Morales, whom he accused of wanting to use his image to promote lithium extraction.
"Ironically, the result of all this is that I am now aware of the problem and through my foundation we will help the issue of indigenous rights with respect to lithium extraction," Cameron told a group of reporters gathered in his Buenos Aires hotel room on Friday night.
Cameron traveled to Argentina to participate in a sustainability conference in Buenos Aires on Friday.
"I thought he had come here to give a kind of motivational speech about environmental causes," Cameron said.
James Cameron and Morales posed together in Jujuy.
As part of his visit, the filmmaker traveled to the northern province of Jujuy on Thursday to visit a large solar power plant with Gov. Gerardo Morales. According to him, no one told him that lithium would be part of the discussion.
After Cameron's visit, Morales wrote in a message of thanks on social networks that the province aspired to "transform the energy matrix" through projects such as the solar power plant and "lithium extraction."
The director received a letter sent to him by a group of 33 indigenous communities in the area a few days earlier asking him to cancel the trip or meet with them to explain their opposition to lithium extraction projects that they said affect their land rights and negatively impact the environment.
"I feel like I was ambushed," Cameron told reporters after a meeting with local environmentalists. He said he was unaware of the controversy surrounding lithium mining. "I feel that I was introduced to a perspective of whose meaning I had no conscience," he insisted.
Although he says he "does not know the exact architecture" of how the "ambush" happened, he feels that an attempt was made to use his image, not only because of his support for environmental causes, but also because of the broad message of "Avatar."
"'Avatar' is the highest-grossing film ever. It's about the conflict between an extractive industry and indigenous rights," Cameron said. He added: "If you can generate an optic in which I appear approving lithium mining, that gives a kind of mandate or approval."
In their letter to Cameron, Indigenous representatives refer directly to "Avatar" when requesting the filmmaker's support.
"Jujuy is Pandora, and it is under threat from the greed of the mining industry, and we are the Na'vi," the letter reads, alluding to the fictional world where the film takes place and its inhabitants who fight against mining settlers.
Before leaving Argentina, Cameron met with Verónica Chávez, representative of one of Jujuy's indigenous communities.
Argentina is the fourth largest producer of lithium and is part of the so-called "lithium triangle" with Chile and Bolivia, which comprises a large part of the metal's deposits. Demand for lithium is growing in the global transition to renewable energy and the growth of the electric vehicle sector, which uses lithium batteries.