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James Cameron Knows That Avatar's Filming Isn't A Hit With Everyone In New Zealand

Since its inception, James Cameron's "Avatar" franchise has been bringing in boatloads of money for the economy of New Zealand, where the movies are filmed. But, apparently, many Kiwis couldn't care less — and the legendary director knows it.

"The government sees the math, but the average person needs it explained," Cameron said in an interview with GQ in November. "Which occasionally we have to do."

Cameron's arrival in and the influence of "Avatar" on New Zealand have been quite turbulent, with a number of incidents and things bothering those who live there. The recent high-grossing sequel, "Avatar: The Way of Water," has been slammed by the Indigenous community for cultural appropriation and the glorification of colonialism and genocide. A resident from Christchurch, Cheney Poole, told The Washington Post in December: "It very much romanticizes the idea of what not only Maori are going through, but many Indigenous cultures around the world, and almost downplays the suffering."

Back in mid-2020 — at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic — Cameron and his "Way of Water" production team drew the ire of New Zealanders and Kiwi businesses for being given special permission to enter the country for filming after its borders had been shut down (via The Guardian). But the "Avatar" director, who admits to hearing the locals' complaints and cries, insists it's all for a good cause.

Eight to one ratio of return on investment

According to James Cameron, New Zealand is benefiting greatly from the "Avatar" franchise.

"'Avatar”s a big piece of business for the New Zealand government, but controversial with the citizens here," Cameron told GQ. "'We're handing out millions to these foreigners to come,'" Cameron imagines a Kiwi opining. "But for every million they hand us, we bring eight or nine million into the economy."

Now, while it may seem like Cameron isn't in agreement with what the locals are saying about "Avatar: The Way of Water" and the franchise as a whole, there are actually some things that he's accepted. Like the cultural appropriation stuff, for example.

"The people who have been victimized historically are always right," Cameron told Unilad in a December interview. "It's not up to me, speaking from a perspective of white privilege, if you will, to tell them that they're wrong. I have to listen. I have to say, 'Okay, if that's what you're feeling, that's what you're feeling.' And it has validity. It's pointless for me to say, 'Well, that was never my intention.'"

"Avatar: The Way of Water" has been a huge financial hit for Cameron, Disney, and everyone involved, with the film recently surpassing the $2 billion mark at the global box office. Cameron had previously expressed his doubts about the sequel being as successful as the first film and was worried it wouldn't make enough money to warrant two more installments after "Avatar 3," which has already been filmed. Now it appears that New Zealand will be stuck with Cameron for at least a few more years.