District 9 (2009)

Racism, refugee camps, slums, black market dealings and hostility are all showcased in a new light within the film District 9. Directed by Neill Blomkamp and staring relative newcomers Sharlto Copley, Nathalie Boltt, John Sumner this movie does not disappoint.

Filmed as though a documentary, this film opens with a series of interviews used to set up the film’s premise. A ship is seen settling over Johannesburg, South Africa where it remains inactive for three months. Curiosity eventually gets the better of the South African residents and they embark on a mission to enter the ship. Upon entering, they stumble across a group of ‘aliens’ that appear malnourished, sick and unaware of where they are. Given the derogatory name ‘Prawn’ by South Africans, the aliens are placed in government housing camps located within Johannesburg’s city limits. Crime, violence and black market trading soon take hold and the camps become slums referred to as District 9.

Local residents of Johannesburg soon begin to lose their patience with both the aliens and the steadily declining conditions of District 9 and Multi-National United (MNU), a private company, is hired to evict the aliens from District 9 and relocate them to District 10, a camp located 250 km outside of the city. With little regard for the aliens well being, and a large focus on confiscating their weapons, Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley), a MNU field operative begins the process of evicting the 1.8 million ‘prawns’.

As the story continues to unfold, racism, discrimination, and destitution are touched upon in a unique manner – humans vs. aliens. Forget black vs. white or rich vs. poor; this film tackles the issues from a point of view we have yet to encounter in life as we know it. Aptly placed in Johannesburg, where apartheid shaped what the country became and continues to become, this film shows how a new ‘distraction’ unites an entire city that was previously at war with one another. The aliens are a new target, a provided ‘distraction’. Those who were once looked upon with intrigue and fascination are now a nuisance, a problem to be dealt with; or in this case, moved outside the city walls.

Blomkamp does a very good job of playing into the audiences emotions. First it’s fascination, then it’s curiosity. As the film continues to play out, the emotions range from anger and sadness to pride and hope. Always at the edge of your seat – a testament to good directing – this film leaves the viewer emotional (a good thing), with more questions then it does answers. The style of film in some ways makes this film easier to relate to, as though this very event could happen. The dialoge, because of the film style, isn’t that strong; but it doesn’t have to be – the actions of the characters speak louder then any words spoken. The special effects are sensational and the acting is believable, perhaps because no ‘movie stars’ were cast to play an average human working an average day job.

My hope is that a sequel is green-lighted by the studio executives. I didn’t want this film to end.

See this movie on the big screen. It’s well worth your hard earned dollars and well worth the through provoking discussions that are sure to take place once the film concludes.

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