District 9

Nathalie Boltt

Nathalie Boltt

A sci-fi original.

The quality of this movie is guaranteed given that it is produced by Peter Jackson, the mastermind behind the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Even though this is the directorial debut of Neill Blomkamp and there is no famous actor, this is going to be a memorable sci-fi blockbuster.

District 9 is the story of a starship that stops just above Johannesburg, the capital of South Africa and then stays forever above ground, immobile and obscuring part of the sky. After a few months, the humans penetrate into it, to discover a wavering population of aliens appearing sick, malnourished, without organization and who seem to have lost the knowledge of how to maneuver the spaceship .

The movie takes places twenty years after the spaceship initial arrival. As patience regarding this “alien situation” has ran out, the management of the alien population has been contracted out to the private company Multi-National United (MNU) which relocates them in a ghetto-like area called “District 9″.

District 9 is a scary slum where various types of traffic take place (weapons, food, etc) under the control of the Nigerian mafia. Aliens speak their own language and have their own culture and habits, making co-habitation very difficult.

This sci-fi masterpiece is original for a few reasons. First the format of the movie, which is shot like if it were a documentary. Many short interviews of witnesses commenting on their impressions are intertwined with action footage. And they talk and appear as if it was the evening news, including expert commentaries by sociologists such as Sarah Livingstone (Nathalie Boltt). And there is impromptu footage filmed as the real events occurred.

The lead character presented himself as a witness is Wikuss Wan De Merwe, the manager from MNU responsible for relocating the 1.8 millions aliens to a remote and quieter location. This is a difficult operation as the aliens may not understand the concept of relocation (as they have no sense of propriety) and they are unpredictable and possibly violent, causing occasional deaths on both sides.

It turns out that one of the aliens had managed to preserve the knowledge of his race’s technology and had been working on building a small spacecraft during the last twenty years since their unfortunate arrival. But while raiding the place, Wikuss Wan De Merwe gets contaminated by a substance used to fuel the ship, and starts transforming himself into an alien.

This is not a Star Wars movie as the action is shot in real South Africa as we know it, and the budget is only 30 millions. But the special effects are first class for this relatively small budget. The aliens have a realistic appearance, the mother spaceship, small spaceship and robots are perfectly rendered as if we were watching the news channel.

Also District 6 has a great human touch. We see the hero losing his humanity as he progressively becomes an alien and his body suffers a slow metamorphosis. In the face of that, he becomes a valuable object of science for human society and is treated as such, without compassion as an object of immense value. His wife is the only one left who cares for him.

As this movie is presented in a narrative format, each person expresses his feelings about this extraordinary situation, offering a wide range of views and human emotions. Finally, the choice of the country famous for Apartheid and its huge ghettos is probably not coincidental to carry a message about races and tolerance.

The message of the movie: be tolerant to others and keep an open mind.

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