Fantasy, Satire, World Cinema

District 9 directed by Neill Blomkamp

district9 One of the best science fiction movies that I have seen. The reason I loved it was because it had the same philosophy as the best tales of science fiction. Peel away the surface and you find a story that speaks not of tomorrow, but of today. The science fiction genre is just a tool to tell an attention grabbing, engaging story.

The movie is told partly in the form of a documentary that seems to talk about some event in the near past (something extraordinary happened, we understand, something not ‘approved’). And partly, the movie is told in real time. The premise is that an alien mother ship got stranded over the top of Johannesburg. The human expectations of finding something exciting (either salvation or doom) in the event (haven’t we all hoped for witnessing contact with extra-terrestrials?) is soon dashed when they find malnourished and ETs, decidedly disgusting in appearance on the ship who seem to be disoriented and directionless. They are ‘rehabilitated’ in refugee camps that soon becomes a cordoned off area, an apartheid zone – as clashes increase between humans and ETs. Zones become earmarked as ‘ETs not allowed’ or ‘humans only’ that does not take too much of an imagination to realize as being a spin off from the apartheid signs of ‘Whites only’ and so on.

As the ETs begin to try and get rights for themselves, protests are triggered all over the city with calls for removing the settlement. That is when a private MNC (MNU) comes to the scene to ostensibly help in removal of the ETs and plan their rehabilitation on the outskirts. However they have an ulterior motive, which soon becomes apparent and forms the core of the story. As the rehabilitation drive begins, our district_ninestory begins…

It’s a rollercoaster of a movie that can be seen as a action thriller at one level. For me, it never flagged in its pace. Till the end, you keep on guessing how it can end and if it can end happily. I loved the ending by the way. Lets the movie end with a yearning.

But what is really great about this movie is that it raises a lot of issues –  political and social without ever becoming in the least bit preachy. There are no speeches or highly aware individual. That most of are really pawns and can only do and understand so much is what the movie brings out. Small things shown in the movie make a big difference in the whole viewing experience – like the discrimination against the ETs that comes so naturally, the derogatory nicknaming of the ETs by the humans as ‘prawns’ based on their appearance, the involvement of private armies of large corporations (makes you think of Iraq), the dilemma of acceptance of people (in this case – species) who look and act differently, the unlikely brotherhood that can develop between people when they finally understand each other. All things that you can relate to easily.

district9-440x486 And because the ETs and the humans differ so markedly in appearance and language makes the ‘message’ of the movie even more apparent. And when the ETs show traits like love, sorrow and loyalty, which ironically ‘humanizes’ them, well, you understand what the movie is all about

It’s a movie that people who love a good story told differently will enjoy. It has a certain grim humour about it that goes with the mood of the movie. I love the movie for what it said but I loved it more for the way it said it.



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