Monday, August 17, 2009

Media Study South Africa: Reviewing District 9

(Media Study South Africa; c.f. Creative Minority Report (Catholic; Independent; American) 17 / 08 | August / 2009 ; Internet Movie Database (American; Independent; Secular) Warning: contains spoiler District 9 2009 Synopsis )

Article by Marc Aupiais

Note: If you want to know what happens without actually watching the film, you may want to read: (Internet Movie Database (American; Independent; Secular) Warning: contains spoiler District 6 2009 Synopsis). The film reportedly contains explicit violence, gore, and obscene language, and is not suitable for children. Our own review, a review which- we have carefully written in the hope of not containing any spoilers, is available from the paragraph below this- until the end of the article.

The criticisms that locally born directors have of the South African situation, have certainly made what some international critics have considered to be good film, from Rendition (Gavin Hood), which attacked an American policy, but was certainly influenced by a noticeable South African perspective, to Totsie (Gavin Hood), a film which was received as fantastic internationally, but treated like a documentary locally.

 The most recent release from a South African director, is no stranger to criticizing South Africa subtly in film. South Africa suffers from endemic xenophobia against the citizens of other African nations- partly due to an influx of refugees from throughout the continent, and the lower classes blame Nigerians for an increase in crime, gangsterism and for the sales of narcotics, this may be a basis for how Nigerians are portrayed in the film.

The title District 9, will instantly be associated with the infamous occurrences in District 6 during Apartheid, in which non-white South Africans were forcibly relocated. However- the forced relocation of Extra-terrestrials, certainly will remind those, who like myself drive into Johannesburg 5 days on an average week- of the forced removals of non South Africans, of aliens, from the CBD and other areas, by the infamous Red Ants, who have recently been employed by the government.

The film, produced by Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings Trilogy), and Directed by South African local: Neill Blomkamp, and starring an unknown South African cast- is set in Johannesburg, and centres around a group of aliens whose spaceship was seen hovering above Johannesburg, twenty years prior the fictional time in which the movie is set.

The Aliens are accessed as workers- they are malnourished, and weak, it seems their leaders were wiped out in a plague. The alien ship's command module falls out of the sky and the ship itself thus becomes inoperable, the aliens are confined to a government camp called District 9, which soon becomes a slum, due to the military presence, and overcrowding. Nigerians and aliens trade in a market, the Nigerians using cat food, the aliens giving up weapons, interspecies prostitution also occurs. Alien weaponry requires alien biology and is useless to people.

The aliens scare the locals, and are confined to slums. Eventually, the Nazi-like decision to relocate 1.8 million of the aliens (derogatorily named "prawns"), to the equivalent of a concentration camp (District 10) 240 kilometres outside of Johannesburg, comes into effect, and MNU (Multi-National United), a multinational company, is employed to relocate the nuisances. The protagonist is Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley), a man who works for MNU, who goes through a journey of the soul during the movie, and ironically has to rely on an alien to survive, when things turn sour. South Africa itself is experienced in the use of Concentration Camps- the British used them on the families of Afrikaans/Boer soldiers during the South Africa / Boer War.

Any true sci-fi film focuses very little on technology, which none the less plays a role. According to Patrick Archbold, whose review of the film, we have based some of our information on- the best sci-fi films tell you something about yourself. Experience associates South African directors with a focus on oppression, human rights and human experience, and a message that we are all human. According to Patrick Archbold, the film District 9, also has another message, a pro-life message.

He clearly notes:

"The aliens, you see, have very advanced weaponry but it can only be used by the aliens themselves. Since they are of little use to anyone, MNU and our protagonist laugh as they abort dozens of growing eggs. Later when the MNU and its military component are annoyed by a small child alien one of the soldiers makes as if to shoot him only to be stopped by Wikus saying "No you can't shoot him now, he is too big. It is against the law. That's why you have to abort them""
(Creative Minority Report (Catholic; Independent; American) 17 / 08 | August / 2009)
Without spoiling the film, one may note that it delves into genetic modification, and looks into whether or not a person can hate what they are- in a clearly South African theme. The movie starts and ends with interviews, and does not end too well for most of the aliens involved. The fate of Wikus at the end of the film, is in limbo- as with the fate of the human race itself, so to speak- it ends with some hope that he will return to his previous life. If you want to know what happens without actually watching the film, you may want to read: (Internet Movie Database (American; Independent; Secular) Warning: contains spoiler District 9 2009 Synopsis). The film reportedly contains explicit violence, gore, and obscene language, and is not suitable for children. As far as morality is concerned, the Roman Catholic Church for one, considers the genetic modification of human beings, something MNU, and one of the main characters try- to be gravely evil: which could mean that the film has a definite morally negative effect as far as that area is concerned.

This movie, in a sort of working title response from us- gets a rating of interesting, but neutral, from our perception of the reviews we have read on it. In other words, we do not endorse it, but it may be an interesting watch. We have not reviewed the film in person, and have thus had to rely on third party sources- meaning that our review is probably not of the same standard as our more in depth looks at many other films and series. The film should appeal to science fiction fans. It does seem to be a commentary on controversial issues locally. We cannot say that the film is safe to watch without watching it first, it certainly is not a film for children or sensitive viewers, from the reviews we have read.


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