Aliens in SA? Totally awesome

2009-08-31 00:00

“ONE of those prawns stole my wife.” Does this sound familiar?

Yes, our beautiful country has its fair share of historical turmoil, and the baggage that comes with it.

With our oppressive past and the legacy that still lingers, there are many stories to be told — and every now and then Hollywood realises this, rounds up an A-list cast and puts out a film.

Being reminded of our demons has actually become quite boring actually. But, I feel very differently about the new sci-fi-slash-action-slash-thriller on circuit, District 9.

Produced by Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, District 9 tells the story of aliens (and I mean the extraterrestrial kind) who have been forced to live on Earth in a Johannesburg slum since their ship stalled over the city 20 years before.

When the general populace has had enough of the “prawns” — as the locals call them — Wikus van der Merwe (local actor Sharlto Copley) is assigned to evict and move the aliens to another government refugee camp.

While serving the prawns their eviction notices, he is exposed to an alien substance that changes his DNA, forcing him to work with the aliens to help them escape the planet so that they will in turn help him become normal again.

So, how does this have anything to do with South African history?

Well, the movie itself is an adaptation of SA director Neill Blomkamp’s 2005 short film Alive in Joburg, which drew inspiration from the apartheid government’s decision to forcibly remove and relocate 60 000 people from District 6 in Cape Town.

District 9 is somewhat an updated version. Like Alive in Joburg, it is symbolic (a satirical film, like the cult classic Dr Strangelove).

It uses a mock documentary style, interviews, news footage and video from surveillance cameras to tell the story. I believe that this gives that film a more authentic feel: the idea of aliens living on Earth doesn’t seem so far-fetched.

But if you are not into the whole deeper meaning and “cinematographical cleverness” thing, then you’ll be happy that, as with any other good sci-fi-slash-action-slash-thriller, there are a lot of blowups, guts, gore, destructive laser beams — and, of course, gravitation rays.

It’s totally awesome; and it is no surprise that it kicked the new Harry Potter movie off the number one spot in the week of its release.

*****

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