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South African sci-fi

September 7, 2009










There has been some excellent writing and drama from South Africa over the years, and much of it is serious stuff.

One thinks perhaps of Athol Fugard and J.M. Coetzee. Even the titles — Sizwe Bansi is Dead and Disgrace — convey a certain gravitas, at the very least.

So, a science fiction movie set in Johannesburg comes, to many outside South Africa at least, as something of a surprise.

For those who haven’t seen it, South African-born director Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 is the story of how a mysterious space craft appears over Johannesburg.

It turns out to contain starving aliens, referred to scathingly as “prawns”, who are brought down to the city and housed in an enormous and chaotic shanty ghetto.

The film is done in the form of a documentary — although it can’t resist some good
old-fashioned shoot-outs involving the aliens’ space weapons.

It’s also pretty funny as it satirises just about everybody — the bureaucrats given the task of evicting the prawns from District 9, the soldiers who have to be restrained from shooting them, the Nigerian bandits who exploit them ruthlessly and the unfortunate prawns themselves, who are addicted to cat food.

But of course it’s not all sci-fi fun. This being South Africa, audiences are also asked to consider more ponderous questions that relate to the country’s racial history and also how to deal with “aliens” who suddenly appear on the doorstep after being afflicted by some crisis at home — something the South African government has had to contend with in recent years as Zimbabwe has imploded, forcing millions across the border.


I hope the Zimbabweans are not the ‘prawns’.

Posted by Frank Phiri | Report as abusive

Great movieinteresting take on racism – nice to see a movie that doesn’t pretend whites cornered the market. good special effects.interesting also the aliens kept breeding and district 9 starts with a million of them. by the end it’s 2.5 million…. the struggle to keep providing housing for multiplying refugees and slum dwellers is draining South Africa. Nice to see it recognised

Posted by anon1 | Report as abusive

My father, mother, wife and I went to see this and walked out after about an hour. Apart from the accents, it was no different to any other shoot-’em-up. Boring and predictable. The attempts at drawing parallels between the aliens and racial division in South Africa were so painfully unsubtle as to be downright insulting. The acting was pitiful. And, strangest of all considering the fact that the film seems to want to play with the big boys and deal with important themes such as racism, the Nigerian people in the film are subtitled, despite the fact they’re speaking English. Obviously, white South Africans’ accents are presumed to be easy to understand, whereas the Nigerians speech is seen as completely impenetrable. Seems a trifle on the racist side to me.

Posted by Thomas Birch | Report as abusive

My personal opinion of the movie District 9 is that its a poor excuse for a movie. I’m watching the film and then i’m thinking gosh! “its the South African crossover for the Independence Day and Black hawk Down(relating to urban shootout)”.The storyline is chaotic cause its hardly depicts the Apartheid era, one hardly knows the reason for the Alien’s invading South Africa like its done in other Sci-fi films…e.g world domination, humans as food, pure lust for power, vital minerals e.t.c. District 9 just plays out, on and on it goes. At a point i got tired of being bored. For instance these aliens are meant to be far intelligent than humans yet they don’t have a translator gadget to communicate in english!…South African-born director Neill Blomkamp’s attempt of creating a Sci-fi movie definitely shows his out of his league. Being an ardent fan of Sci-fi movies, i think he should look for another profession.Lastly being a Nigerian and all, i think Neill Blomkamp owes Nigerians a public apology for the way Nigerians were depicted in the movie as cannibals, pimps, gun dealers and more. Its shameful that he has the audacity to embrass a whole country so crudely too. Something i’m sure he can’t do to nations like Britain or America. He’s also being a hypocrite because of the way he depicts Nigerians, his country is not far off…their murder rates is one of the highest in the world( 18,000 killings per year), their burglaries and sex offences is nothing to write home about. So why show Nigerians in such an image when his fellow S.A.’s aren’t better off…In essence we’rent perfect, no matter where we’re from. So others shouldn’t try to feel better by damaging other Nations images, after all i thought we’re leaving in a Global village…

Posted by Dele Adefowope | Report as abusive

Check Ur Baggage at the door, stop the racial pandering, this was a fun and crazy look at humanity. the movie was truly enjoyable, stop looking for excuses to cry racism every time, enjoy the blockbuster, and lets all… as Africans gloat about the great successes of one of our sons! Neill you did us proud.

Posted by Gary Huntington | Report as abusive

C’mon guys it’s a movie

Posted by B | Report as abusive

The film District nine was not about South Africa per se but about how countries try to assimilate immigrants who don’t fit in…By putting the story in fantasy, it allows one to apply various parts of the story to today’s realities, and to see them a new and more thoughtful way.Setting it in South Africa and having a local cast was a great improvement on having Hollywood pretty men star in the film.As for angry Nigerians: Well, the main bad guys were white industrialists. So maybe Europeans should be angry too…


It was quite violent and traumatic. But it felt a bit related to the xenophobia that occurred here last year.I do not understand why the Nigerian gang leader had a Zimbabwean accent and his gang spoke a South African language and Swahili. That is ignorance o the directing team. In all respect, that was a very poor representation of the Nigerians. I don’t blame the information minister for banning it in Nigeria.The main message in the movie is still unclear.

Posted by Maryanne Njeri | Report as abusive

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