Cloud Atlas’ Queer Tiki Kitsch: Polynesians, Settler Colonialism, and Sci-Fi Film

  • Author(s): Gabriel S. Estrada
  • When: 2014-10
  • Where: Journal of Religion & Film
  • Polynesian theories of film reception, visual sovereignty, feminisms, and worldview offer critical insights into The Wachowskis' and Tykwer's 2012 film Cloud Atlas. From Indigenous and Native feminist film perspectives, Cloud Atlas offers a sci-fi future deeply entrenched in the queer tiki kitsch of settler colonialism as situated within a comparative context of other queer Indigenous film. As an example of heteropatriarchal settler colonialism, the Cloud Atlas plot supports the heterosexual triumphs of cross-racial couples and sublimates the possibilities of transgender reincarnation. Although Cloud Atlas attempts to critique Christian slavery and defend a secular abolitionist stance in the 1848 South Pacific, it does so by masking Moriori non-violent philosophies with violent dialogue, casting African diaspora as Māori and Moriori, and refusing to honor the practices and philosophies that maintain mana. The 2321 section of Cloud Atlas disregards the Kanaka Maoli land, human, and cosmic balance of pono and mana as it disappears the Kanaka Maoli and renders the occupation of Kanaka Maoli sacred sites on Mauna Kea as a technological necessity. Despite Halle Berry’s black woman heroism, the lack of Cloud Atlas’ Indigenous spiritual and political representation undermines the humanistic message of the Wachowskis who were unable to understand the difference between assimilation, anti-racism, and settler colonialism. A queer rendering of visual sovereignty and the related Polynesian concepts of peace, mana, moko, and pono resist the queer settler colonial logics that guide the Wachowskis’ directorial and screenwriter choices in parallel editing, montage, plot development, casting, make-up, and camera angle.

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