Sunday, September 06, 2009

How real is the movie "District Nine"?

The Christian Science Monitor reviews the movie "District nine" from a South African's point of view. since I haven't seen the movie, I have no comments..

...But District 9 is really a piece of social commentary. It portrays modern post-apartheid South Africa, with all the modern trappings of normal suburban life for a select few, living side-by-side with a Mad Max world of poverty, inhabited by teeming millions of poorer folk, immigrants, and yes, extraterrestrial aliens who look rather like prawns....

The manner in which South African society treats these newcomers – in this movie, yes, but something also echoed in horrific xenophobic riots in May 2008 that killed more than 100 – shows that the much vaunted “Rainbow Nation” is still very much an ideal.

... 15 years after apartheid. The black majority may now have power, and the white technocrat minority seems to have found a place for itself, but both groups have teamed up to wield their power against a new enemy: immigrants.

The plot of District 9 follows a rather nerdy bureaucrat named Wikus Van der Merwe, who has been given the task of going door to door with armed guards in a slum called District 9, where the extraterrestrial prawns are scratching out an existence that Charles Dickens couldn’t have imagined. Wikus – who is followed by a camera crew, in faux documentary style – remains the quintessential South African law-enforcement agent, determined that every alien he meets must sign a paper agreeing to move out of their shacks to another encampment far off.

It is in these scenes – and in Wikus’s contacts with the violent Nigerian gangs that control the markets in District 9 – that District 9 rises above a simple shoot-em-up into social commentary.

When Wikus shows off his professional bureaucratic finesse in front of the camera, asking an alien to sign a document – with his tentacle-like hand – he’s showing that South Africa is a civilized country with rules. But when Wikus chatters, between raids, about the filthy habits of the aliens and their strange appetites for cat food, we see the racism that South Africans – black and white alike – have for Africans from other countries....

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