I found DISTRICT 9 a well structured film, in terms of pacing, and the germ of its story. I mean there is a lot to like about DISTRICT 9. Its fast frenetic pace, strong performances, a short snappy running time, and really amazing special effects and impressive action, all grafted on to what is essentially a chase pic.
So there was a lot to like about DISTRICT 9, unfortunately the few things… not to like, I found to be significant things, and really kinda central to the heart of the film. And the heart was… corrupt.
Where DISTRICT 9 immediately fails for me is in its fairly unsubtle tone and its use of Black faces to deliver and reinforce White messages. A well worn Hollywood trope going back to the BIRTH OF A NATION.
What do I mean? DISTRICT 9 is a thinly veiled allegory to Apartheid South Africa, replacing the Kafirs with Prawns. The fact that in reality it is the aliens, the Dutch who came in and relocated the rightful occcupants into slums is kind of lost in this translation however. Instead we get Black actors (faces, as I’m sure most of them were non-actors) to in essense regurgitate lines that not too long ago the Dutch would have said about them. It is an irony not lost on me, but is without a doubt lost on the Black faces, thrust into a movie that is all about delivering white messages.
The most aggregious of which? The Nigerians. In one stroke they called them smugglers, drug and weapon dealers, sexual deviants, and cannibals. Wow. Who paid for this movie, Shell Gas?
I know a bit about Nigeria and I found that portrayal racist and maligning and calculated to reinforce stereotypes, on an almost unbelievable level. (I mean you can do a pic with Triad gangs, or Yakuza because you typically have positive asian elements in the same film, as well as tons of positive Asian films. However when a people are as underrepresented on the world stage as the Nigerians, it’s important that their only images aren’t negative images. Otherwise it becomes the engine of Stereotype. So I’m not saying “Do not use Nigerians in film”, but let’s try painting them as hereoes as well as villians, or perhaps even just as people)
It’s well known to everyone except the terminally stupid, which includes unfortunately most of America, that for six decades the Dutch-British company that is SHELL gasoline, this survivor of the mad dreams of Reichdom, has made their fortune by stealing and raping the land and resources of the native Nigerian people… the Ogoni (If you saw AVATAR you have seen a fictionalization of that Ogoni saga played out. With the exception being no one has yet come to the Ogoni’s aid). And the Nigerian email scams, are not Nigerian inventions but British/Dutch inventions (Noise to cover the real signal/emails that activists were trying to get out about the attrocities being perpetrated in Nigeria, against the native Nigerians).
So unfortunuately all the masses, who get their news from obviously bigoted sources such as FOX NEWS, know of Nigeria is little to nothing. All the masses know is the noise.
The noise and now DISTRICT 9.
A movie like Neill Blomkamp’s DISTRICT 9, that makes you care for the fictional oppresed Alien race (and want to say “no this is wrong” to what is happening on screen), does so at the expense of real people, The Nigerians, who have been and continue to be victims of staggering colonialism and oppression.
This juxtapositon with the illusion of caring, with the reality of “this filmmaker eithers doesn’t care enough to offer a non-jingoistic view of Nigerians”, ultimately drowns, what otherwise is a tight, faced-paced, stylish thriller of a movie, that I wanted very much to like.
But I see clearly that the films message of misrepresentation will ultimately only serve… to continue the crimes of mass-theft and mass-murder that continue to occur in Nigeria.
DISTRICT 9, has become a very stylish Nigerian spam email, Noise to hide the faint signal… of people who need your help.
So I view the broad license this movie takes, to paint an already deeply attacked and violated people, with such a broad brush of villany, the only way I can… with utter disgust.
Neill Blomkamp with this film proves himself an effective filmmaker, and perhaps he actually had the best of intentions for his film. But honestly I have to doubt it, the commentary against Nigerians was too pointed, and the use of Blacks/South Africans to espouse Apartheid era lines as subtle as a brick to the face. It comes across as the movie of an apologist for Apartheid at best, and a racist at worst. There’s no other way to say it.
Or perhaps Neill Blomkamp, a very young man, is as much a victim of programming as those Black actors in his film, mouthing white messages that can ultimately only harm them and theirs. Perhaps both him and his actors, raised on this cinema and culture of lies, it has become their truth, and all they can do is regurgitate it. All we can be is our father’s failings.
I’d like to believe that’s not true. I’d like to believe that we can all escape slums, both physical and mental. I would like to believe we can all escape our District 9s. Time will tell.
Recommendation: As long as you could go in and not take this picture’s definition of Nigerians as an encompassing definition, take a look. Otherwise read a bit on Shell Gas, and how your car these days runs as much on blood as oil. (For the record I boycott Shell Gas and recommend that all people do the same).
Here endeth the lesson.
Till next time… be well.