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District 9 – TAP’s Movie of the Month for October 2014

October 21, 2014

district_9_movie_poster14One of the most fun things about running Minooka TAP is seeing how the teachers, students, and parents involved cause the program to grow and change over the course of time.  New ideas can be exciting and fun, and I’m incredibly excited about this one.  This will be the first month for TAP’s Movie of the Month.  For our first film, we’ve selected District 9, a science fiction movie that takes place in South Africa, made by South African filmmakers, incorporating South African history, and featuring music influence by South Africa.  That’s perfect, because South Africa is where our group is headed in just 8 months.  District 9 was nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award in 2010 and was ranked the 24th best Science Fiction movie of all time by IGN.

Of course it’s always fun to dissect a movie and discuss the plot, the performances, and the special effects, but for this group we’re going to focus on what make’s District 9 a truly South African movie.

Neill and Sharlto

Neill Blomkamp, the writer and director of District 9, was born in 1979 in Johannesburg, South Africa.  Many of his movies, even though they are science fiction stories, are set in Johannesburg.  He’s been quoted as saying that, in the movie world “a lot of America is kind of done.  People have been making films about it for 100 years.  Everything to me feels used up.  But Jo-burg feels unbelievably inspirational to me.”

Growing up in South Africa, but then moving to Canada as a teenager, Blomkamp seems very interested in films about different worlds, races, or classes colliding.  D9 is a metaphor for anti-Apartheid, and his second movie, Elysium (starring Matt Damon) is about the meeting of the First and Third Worlds.  He tends to use science fiction films to tell very human stories.

When he was 16, Blomkamp met Sharlto Copley (Copley was 21).  The two began helping one another with various animation and film projects.  When it came time for Blomkamp to shoot his short film Alive in Jo-burg, Copley was there to help out, winding up with a small part in the film.  That led to his starring role in D9, and even though he wasn’t an actor prior to Joburg, Copley has now appeared in Elysium, The A-Team, and Maleficent, quite an acting career considering it started as a favor to a friend.

Copley grew up in Pretoria, South Africa and is an actor, producer, and director himself.

Story and Allegory

When you watch District 9, you’ll realize very quickly that it’s not a historical drama.  The story takes place in 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa – the first city we’ll be visiting on our trip.  In the movie, you learn that in 1982 a beat up old spaceship carrying a large population of insect like alien creatures appears over Jo’ burg.  The aliens are unable to return to where they came from, so they are welcomed to live here on Earth with us.

Twenty-eight years have passed, and the temporary refugee camp the aliens were brought to has become their permanent home.  The aliens are segregated from human society, allowed only to inhabit this run-down camp, named District 9, that has become a ghetto patrolled by the human military.  In a lot of ways these living conditions, the policing of their society, and the limited rights the aliens (who are referred to by the derogatory slur “Prawns” because their insect/crustacean like appearance) remind me of the Jewish ghettos we encountered in our visits to Warsaw and Krakow in 2014.

In the movie, the aliens are being evicted from their homes by MNU, a big government agency.  They are being relocated from their homes to a new settlement further from the city so that District 9’s land can be used for the humans.  While you’re watching District 9, realize that this mirrors some actual events from South Africa’s not so distant history.

In 1966, during the apartheid era, a neighborhood in Cape Town called District 6 was declared a “whites only” area.  Before ’66, the neighborhood was quite diverse, but the government declared the neighborhood had become a poverty stricken, crime ridden slum that needed to be leveled. Over the next 16 years, over 60,000  residents were forced to relocate.  The non-white residents were resettled 15 miles away, much further from the city, the beaches, and Table Mountain.  Most of the homes and businesses in District 6 were bulldozed, and the few that were left were sold to whites only.

Much more recently, after the apartheid era ended, the South African government (for many different reasons) has evicted and sometimes forcibly removed residents from shack settlements like the ones the prawns reside in in the film.  On a few occasions, the residents of these ghettos have risen up and fought back to prevent the relocations.  This happened in the early 2000s in the Chiawelo shack settlement, which is where the scenes inside District 9 were filmed.  Many outbursts of violence happened in those shack cities, some of them stemming from the black South Africans living in poor conditions, then illegal aliens from Zimbabwe and Nigeria taking some of their jobs and resources.  This led to a great deal of unrest and conflict.

Here’s a quote from director Neill Blomkamp (from io9.com) about the filming in Chiawelo:

There was a very weird crossover between the film and the reality of filming.  We filmed in a area called Chiawelo, which is a suburb of Soweto, which is sort of a suburb of Johannesburg.  And there is this thing in Africa called RDP housing, which are government subsidized housing.  Were they will build you a brick house in a different area of the city.  And you get put on a waiting list if you’re a South African impoverished resident, until you are able to get one of these  houses.  So the area we filmed the movie in, what plays as District 9, every single resident in that area was being removed to be put into RDP housing.  Although not all of them had been given the green light on the RDP housing most of them had, but all of them were going to be moved, whether they liked it or not.  So we ended up with this open piece of land with all these shacks on it… each day we came to set, there were fewer and fewer people.

Perhaps while you’re watching District 9, it’s worth thinking about what the filmmakers are trying to say about South Africa’s political history with this human vs. prawn theme.  According to Mike Sargent from TOR.com, the movie asks some deep questions.  What if someone we didn’t want mixing into our society suddenly showed up and couldn’t leave?  If this group wasn’t violent or even particularly strong, how would we respond as humans?  How would interacting with them change the people that had to do so?  And, most importantly, given the setting of the movie – What if a country/culture that had a history of social and civil injustices was where they arrived?  Would people who were formally victims become oppressors?  Would the former oppressors continue to oppress the new others?  All things to consider while watching the movie.

The Original Short Film

District 9  was based on a short film that Neill Blomkamp made about five years earlier called Alive in Joburg.  Since it’s just six minutes long and doesn’t have quite the same science fiction conflict to it, the political message is even more apparent.  Just like D9, it’s made to look like a documentary or news program, but in Joburg, all of the black African people being “interviewed” in the shack settlements are not actors.  They are real residents of the neighborhood, and their responses are real. When you watch the movie, you hear these people being asked about the aliens that have been settled amongst them in their shack cities, but in reality those people were asked about the black Nigerian and Zimbabweans that had moved into their neighborhoods.  Those answers about the aliens were the real responses the filmmakers got about outsiders moving into town.

These interview clips help answer some of the questions asked in the section above.  Would people who were formally victims become oppressors?  The poor South African’s reaction to and treatment of the Nigerian and Zimbabwean immigrants mirror both the way black Africans were treated during Apartheid and human attitudes towards the aliens in both Alive in Joburg and District 9.

Watch the short film here –

The Real South Africa

Neill Blomkamp decided to set the movie in his native Johannesburg, because he already sees Johannesburg as a science fiction city.  “There’s widespread poverty among the masses, with pockets of wealth protected by high-tech gates with biometric fingerprinting devices.” His vision of the future is a city like Johannesburg, with its disparity between the have-lots and have-nots that you only see in a few places like Africa, India, and Los Angeles (which he calls diet-Joburg).

In the movie, Sharlto Copley’s character, Wickus, finds a dead cow in one of the shacks he enters.  It was a real dead cow that the producers found in the neighborhood they were filming in.  Later, Wicks defends himself by throwing a dead pig at a soldier.  Apparently dead animals were quite common in that area, and those kinds of unsanitary conditions were what led the government to evict everyone from that neighborhood to safer and cleaner housing.

One scene in the movie shows a sheep’s head cut in half.  This is a real South African dish called a “smiley,” because cutting the head in such a way makes it appear as if the sheep is smiling.  It’s a real snack food that’s sold in that region.  I will not be trying that one.

The MNU headquarters  were filmed in the Carlton Center, which is the tallest building in all of Africa.

In the middle of the movie, the alien character Christopher Johnson discovers an alien body that had been the subject of government experiments, reminding many viewers of the Nazis during WWII, but it’s also a reference to government attempts during Apartheid to create pathogens and poisons that would only hurt the black population of South Africa.

A male Parktown Prawn sitting on a person’ hand. I seriously don’t want to meet one of these things.

The last name of the film’s protagonist, Wickus van der Merwe, is a common last name in South Africa and in the Netherlands (it’s a Dutch name).  In reality, the name, in Dutch, means from the Merwede (from the area of wide waters) and was a common name in the Dutch country side in towns and villages along rivers.  Most South African people instantly recognized the last name, because it’s used in a series of common jokes about dumb, bumbling, clueless Afrikaaners.  Think about jokes here about blondes or rednecks, only substitute in the last name “van der Merwe” instead.  How many van der Merwes does it take to screw in a light bulb?  Check out some van der Merwe jokes here. Don’t click if you’re easily offended, they’re not all the cleanest jokes, but I suppose they give you a taste of South African humor.

Some people believe that the prawn characters in the movie were partially inspired by a species of insect called the Parktown Prawn.  The Parktown Prawns are a very large species of crickets that can be found all over the Parktown area of Johannesburg.  These bright orange pests grow to be almost three inches long and have incredibly hard exoskeletons.  A popular urban legend claims they were the result of a genetic experiment at a local university, explaining their bright color and huge size.  Historically, the bugs didn’t live in the dry environment like Johannesburg, but as the city and suburbs began to expand and more gardens and green areas emerged, the Parktown Prawns began to show up in force.  Many residents love them, because they don’t harm the gardens, but do eat many pests that do.

The Music

Clinton Shorter, a Canadian composer that is friends with Neill Blomkamp, wrote the music for District 9.  Blomkamp wanted Shorter to compose a score that maintained the South African roots of the movie, but he also wanted something dark and ominous sounding.

Shorter found this to be a huge challenge, because most of the South African music he listened to was happy and upbeat.  He found that the couldn’t get the African drums to sound heavy and dark the way he wanted them, so he used a combination of Japanese taiko drums and synthesizers to create the rhythm of the score.  Shorter experimented with a lot of different instruments, computer programs, and sounds to get the mood he and Blomkamp wanted. They both wanted the African feeling to be present in the music, so in the end, the South African feel comes from smaller percussion instruments and vocals.  In the District 9 score, the vocals combine two indigenous African languages: Fulani and Malinke.

The vocal portion of the score was sung by a male Kwaito artist.  Kwaito is a South African version of hip-hop or house music, slowed down to a lower tempo.  Kwaito incorporates synthesized music, African instruments, and vocals.  It is very popular among the black youth of South Africa.  I was going to embed a video of Kwaito music, but I don’t know enough about it to pick one song that represents the genre well, so just do what I did – go to YouTube and search Kwaito.  You’ll find hundreds of songs to choose from.  I spent about an hour listening to different ones, and I’m glad that I did.

As you watch the movie, listen closely to the score to see if you can pick up on that South African feeling.

 

The Language

When thinking about the alien language used in District 9, two questions immediately popped into my head.  First, are the aliens speaking an actual language? and, how can the people and the prawns understand one another if they don’t seem to speak the same languages?

In one article I read, Blomkamp explained that there are 11 official languages in South Africa.  He says that it is not uncommon in Johannesburg to see two people having a conversation in two entirely different languages, both understanding what the other is saying.   This may seem odd to us here in America, but often times, in smaller countries, you become familiar enough with your neighbor’s language that you can understand, and maybe even read a bit, even though you can’t speak the other language.  We’ve actually encountered this a few times in TAP.  Last summer, Denny, a Croatian man who was our tour guide in Slovakia, spoke English, Slovak, and Croatian.  Our bus driver, Grzegorz, spoke only Polish.  When Denny spoke Slovak and Grzegorz spoke Polish, they were able to understand one another.  However, our tour director, Michael, spoke English and German, and Grzegorz couldn’t understand a word he said.  In Spain, we had a Portuguese bus driver.  Juanito, our tour director, spoke Spanish to him, and the driver spoke Portuguese back, and they worked wonderfully together.

According to Blomkamp, the logic is that the aliens have been in Johannesburg for decades, so many South Africans, especially people with a job like Wickus’, can understand the clicking language, they just can’t make those sounds with their own vocal chords (and the other way around for the aliens).

However, the language they’re speaking isn’t a real one.  One actor, Jason Cope, played the part of all the aliens (except the little kid one, who was CGI).  Cope “spoke” all the alien parts, and the sounds that the aliens make are mostly sound effects producers rubbing the skin of pumpkins.  They threw in some mechanical sounds and a series of clicks that are reminiscent to several languages, most obviously Xhosa.  The Xhosa language, which is spoken by 18% of the South African population, uses click consonants – even the word Xhosa (which I have no idea how to say) begins with a click sound.  So, just like the music, the language spoken in District 9 has a little South Africa feel to it.

__________

District 9 is a fun, exciting science fiction movie.  It’s much darker than Star Wars or Guardians of the Galaxy and hits closer to home than the Terminator or Alien movies.  In many ways, it reminds me of the 1980’s film (and later TV show) Alien Nation, but with much more basis in real social and political issues.  Sci-fi fans everywhere are clamoring for a sequel, debating the origins of the prawns, and wondering about Wickus’ fate.  However, for those of us lucky enough to travel to South Africa, the movie is so much more.  It’s a social commentary.  It’s a history lesson.  It’s an insight into South African culture and language.  It’s a taste of African music.  It’s well worth your time to take a closer look at this fantastic film, thinking about your upcoming adventure in Africa as you watch.

We ask that all of our South Africa travelers take the time to watch District 9, then come back here to discuss the movie, the social commentary, the language, the connections to reality, and the music.  The longer and more in depth our discussion gets, the better it is for all of us. 

 

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43 Comments leave one →
  1. Gianna Kriechbaum permalink
    October 29, 2014 9:27 pm

    The movie was really amazing. Although the beginning was a little boring for me but it got really amazing very fast. After finishing the movie I really thought about the meaning behind it and realized it was all about black discrimination. With that realization I still wondered what was with the man who ‘turned into an alien’. It finally made sense to me though. He was wanted by police and unwanted by others because he was just standing up for the ‘aliens’. With that fact, everything made sense and in the end, I cried. Those people didn’t deserve what happened to them and the sad fact is that is still happens around the world.

    • October 29, 2014 9:33 pm

      Good analysis, Gianna. I’m glad that you were able to catch the “hidden” meaning of the film. What did you think about some of the other aspects of the film – the music, the real things from South Africa, or the sites we’ll see in real life?

  2. Maddy Trouvais permalink
    October 29, 2014 11:27 pm

    I agree almost exactly with Gianna. But, I noticed some small details. I had read in the article before hand that the people understood each others languages, even if they didn’t necessarily speak that language. I noticed that with the aliens and Wikus. Wikus actually started to begin to understand them after he was infected. He also started to feel more sympathy towards Christopher because he was caught between both groups. He was willing to sacrifice himself in order for Christopher and his son to be safe.

    • October 30, 2014 1:54 pm

      Maddy – do you think Wickus could communicate with the aliens before the transformation? He was talking to them, wasn’t he? Are you saying after he was beginning to change the understood them (as in could feel sympathy) a bit more? What do you think this would be like in real South Africa during Apartheid?

  3. October 30, 2014 8:06 pm

    I really liked this movie as well. It was a great tool in expressing the attitudes/views of both sides. In my opinion, Wikus’ arm changing showed that he was developing sympathy towards the aliens, or, in history’s case, the black Africans. I wish that it could have had a happy ending, but, as Gianna stated, the sad fact is that there is no happy ending, as this sort of discrimination happens in our world today. That being said, I think that the movie did a great job getting its point across and giving us some cool shots of Johannesburg. However, I have a few questions about modern South Africa. Will we hear some of the music and see some of the slums that were portrayed in the movie? Also, I thought it was cool to see the diversity among the names of some of the workers, with Dutch “van”s working alongside more traditional-sounding African names.

    • October 31, 2014 1:42 pm

      We will go into Soweto, which is an area similar to what we saw in the movie. We’ll visit an area that is used to tourists coming in, so it’s a safe part of that sort of neighborhood, but it will give us a taste of what life is like in the poorer sections of South Africa.

      The music in the movie was a blend of your typical Sci-Fi score with African instruments thrown in. If you’re asking about the type of music I mentioned in the post, just wait for the next movie of the month. That one will be a much deeper exploration of South African music.

  4. Stephanie Melendez permalink
    October 31, 2014 10:01 am

    I’m not really into sci-fi movies, but I was really interested in District 9! Even though the beginning of the movie was some what boring to me, I quickly got glued to the T.V soon after. I watched the movie last night, and it made no sense to me! I had to sleep on it to fully understand the movie. Soon, I then realized that the whole movie was about black discrimination. I found out that the “aliens” were representing the Black Africans, and the “people” were representing the whites. The one thing that made me really sad about the movie, was how all of the people were killing the Aliens left and right. I completely understand that the people wanted the city of Johannesburg to themselves, but there’s no way for the Aliens to get back to their home. Just the fact that in real life, people were actually being killed just for their race makes me devastated! On the other hand, I really liked how Wickus and Christopher worked together to get back home to the other planet. Even though Wickus was changing into an Alien, it didn’t stop him from trying to become human again, even though he knew he could die from trying. Not to mention, I thought that Christopher’s little son was ADORABLE!!! Who knew that little aliens could be so cute? I love how Wickus and Christopher developed a strong relationship with one another just in a matter of 1 day. All in all, District 9 taught me a whole lot about black discrimination. I really didn’t think I would like this movie, but in the end it turned out to be pretty awesome!

    • October 31, 2014 1:44 pm

      Sometimes it takes time and reflection to have the weight of a powerful story like this one hit you. Later in the year, we’ll watch some more realistic movies with similar themes, so I think having this as our base will be very powerful.

  5. Kelsie Stanley permalink
    November 2, 2014 10:55 am

    This movie did a great job of showing just how much discrimination there actually was against black people. Before I watched this, I didn’t realize just how bad things were. The aliens in the movie were meant to be disgusting and terrifying so you would want them gone, but Wickus starts to understand them. Just as others have said, I think the transformation of Wickus’ arm represents the sympathy he begins to feels towards the ‘aliens’. I thought the relationship he delevoped with Christopher was pricless. It shows how just because someone isn’t just like you, you can stil get along. The approach MNU took to move the aliens was completely wrong and shows how people only think of themselves. They never worried about what the aliens wanted, how they felt, or even if there was a peaceful way to work out conflicts. Overall, I thought the movie was a great representation of all the discrimination against black people in South Africa.

    • November 2, 2014 11:49 am

      I agree, Kelsie, the whole move is a great metaphor for Apartheid and the discrimination that is still happening in different parts of the world. You make a good point about Wicks’ arm, that physical transformation likely represents the mental or emotional transformation we might have if we really got to know people that we dislike or treat differently (for whatever reason). What did you think of the other aspects of the movie, like the music and the sites?

  6. Hannah Breier permalink
    November 2, 2014 1:47 pm

    When i was first watching district nine, i was confused on how it was based upon black discrimination. Towards the end of the movie, it all came together for me. I really thought that the director did an amazing job by adding in a part at the beginning when the MNU knocked on Christopher’s door and how kind he was to them. This related to how even though blacks are most of the time polite and respectful to whites, we still mistreat them. Overall, i really liked district nine and how the real story is “hidden”.

    • November 2, 2014 4:13 pm

      You make a good point, Hannah. I wonder how many people watch that movie and just think it’s a fun Sci-Fi story, and don’t get what it’s “really about.”

  7. Austin Stein permalink
    November 4, 2014 9:24 pm

    I… don’t really know how to feel about this movie, both from a historical or just a average watcher’s point of view. I loved the first half hour of the movie because that’s where most of the history lies. It was how spectacular and also horrifying the accuracy of the events being represented. I recognized the forced removal, the cruelty, the judgement upon another living being. It was fascinating and also sickening to watch how unforgiving and narrow minded humans like you and I were. However… the next two thirds of the movie just became another sci-fi blockbuster to me. It felt like the same old plot of two factions joining together to defeat a common foe, but I was hoping for more really with this one. The historical premise started to blur and that’s when it stopped being unique. You can make excellent direct parallels to Apartheid from the movie, but only a third of the way through. I almost wish the entire movie was in the documentary style because it felt like history in the making and maybe would have given a better tie-into the history of South Africa. I enjoyed it, but not only from a movie-enthusiast’s standpoint but a current researcher on all things South Africa, this won’t be a movie I feel I’ll pick up again.

    On a brighter note, I loved the soundtrack! So well done and so atmospheric!

    • November 6, 2014 9:25 pm

      What a deep analysis of the movie, Austin – I love it. I agree that the documentary section of the movie was the most engaging part. Hopefully someday they make a sequel that carries on in that style.

  8. Cameron Smith permalink
    November 8, 2014 7:23 am

    The movie was a lot better than I expected. Not once did I say oh that could never happen or if I was their the right decision would be to blank (which I do all the time when I watch a movie). I also like the idea of a alien movie that isn’t about a invasion but the aliens came just simply to live on earth. The movie was great. (I have also heard a sequel is being made)

    • November 8, 2014 7:15 pm

      I hope they do make a sequel, Cameron. I don’t know what it’d be about, but I’d definitely watch it.

  9. Cameron Smith permalink
    November 8, 2014 7:28 am

    I would also like to mention that watching the humans and aliens interact was always interesting to watch.

  10. November 8, 2014 7:36 am

    Wickus goes through to major changes in the movie the more obvious one being he turned into alien the less obvious one being his feeling towards the aliens. At first he doesn’t like the prawns but then you can see when he shoots alien weapons for the first time he doesn’t want to kill a prawn even though while they were filming the documentary he wanted to kill the child prawn without even a tiny bit of hesitancy

    • Ms. Tadey permalink
      November 9, 2014 9:58 am

      Excellent observation about the two-fold evolution of Wikus. Maybe as people watch this movie, they will also experience a similar change. Here’s hoping the change is mental and not physical. 😉

  11. Ms. Tadey permalink
    November 8, 2014 1:04 pm

    Every time I watch this movie, I feel an intense sadness because, for me, the allegory of “native aliens” as interstellar aliens is so obvious. The crimes witnessed in the movie are not far-fetched sci-fi imaginings. These atrocities happen in real life.
    I constantly question the real reasons for racism, hatred, and bigotry. I don’t understand why some people feel they have the right to dehumanize others. I think the motivation for such prejudice is greed. The scene with Wikus in the hospital/military laboratory is incredibly moving. Already, because his arm has changed, the military views Wikus as a belonging to be exploited for their own gain. 24 hours earlier, he was a member of their own organization, albeit a seemingly unimportant member. His role boiled down to public relations. I don’t think anyone really cared what happened to the relocated aliens, but it was good PR to pretend. However, as a human/alien hybrid, Wikus finally has value in the eyes the military because he can be used to crush the unwanted alien presence. If the experiments had proven successful (and Wikus had failed to escape), I don’t doubt that the military would have fabricated some excuse to decimate the alien population. At that point, it is convenient for the military to ignore the fact that Wikus is still a sentient being with a desire (and some would say right) to live his life. And let’s not forget to mention the poor Prawn test subjects littered across the laboratory. I doubt the scientists ever considered they had any value beyond experimentation. This mirrors the historical view colonialists had for native Africans when they seized diamond and gold mines in South Africa.
    (On a side note, having the Prawns go crazy for cat food was a very smart choice. In most major cities around the world, cats are considered a nuisance. They overrun cities, damage architecture, and help spread disease. The fact that the Prawns enjoy food meant for the pests of the animal world helps reinforce the idea that their value is less than.)
    I do think the music choices for the movie are interesting. Maybe I’m a musical softie but, by combining traditional Western music with traditional African instruments, I’d like to think it shows hope for what could have been accomplished if people had chosen to work together. Obviously there are things humans could have learned from Prawns about biotechnology, space travel, and communal living. Along the same vein, the government and people of South Africa could have taught the aliens many useful, wonderful things about living successfully on this planet. Perhaps the amalgamated musical score should serve as a reminder of what can be accomplished together rather than apart.

  12. Dylan Blough permalink
    November 22, 2014 7:56 am

    It took me a little while to see the movie, but when I did I thought the movie was pretty good. I enjoyed the music in the movie as well. I’m not a big Si-Fi buff, but I am a history buff. I think the tie into history is what made it interesting to me. I was going to say I would like to sequel one of these days. But after giving it some more thought, I think one movie makes the message stronger leaving it where it is. I think that the process that was used by the MNU, like Kelsie said, was wrong. Especially due to the fact that the MNU would then burn the house immediately after the alien left, and they stood and watched as what little they had was burned to the ground. It really made me see how cruel the forced removal of the blacks and the immediate demolition of their houses was. It made me wonder what emotions they were thinking, and how they viewed themselves due to the actions of the MNU in the movie and The Government of South Africa in real life. Did some see themselves as a burden on society or a mistake as a human? Thats the thought that the movie left on me. But in all, I think the movie did an excellent job at not letting hollywood kill the historical basis that the movie is based on.

    • November 22, 2014 5:23 pm

      Some very good points, Dylan. I’m glad you were able to get around to watching it.

    • cj moody permalink
      February 7, 2015 1:18 pm

      Being that you liked the movie and would kind of like a sequel, what would you want to happen in it? Would it still be the apartheid? A continuation? Or maybe a different event in history?

  13. Emily Blenck permalink
    November 22, 2014 4:39 pm

    (Sorry I’m a little late on the conversation) This movie was hands down one of the most incredible things I’ve ever experienced/learned. In a way, I’m almost glad I watched the movie after Mrs.Harrig’s presentation on Apartheid because it really opened my eyes more to the awful and sicking treatment towards the black population of the country.
    One of the most incredible aspects of the film to me was basically how the humans viewed the aliens. When I first saw these creatures, I myself was very disgusted because they were all slimy and sort of freaky looking. But as those thoughts ran through my head it came to my attention that this was almost exactly how the whites had viewed the blacks. They saw them as inhuman, freaks of nature, that had no business in living in even the same area as their kind. Now as a person who has completely no tolerance for any judgment for abuse towards others of any kind, it was really a unique experience for me to kind of step into the mind frame of a “racist”(there’s probably a better way to word that) person. Of course, as I started getting into the movie more and more my views of the aliens changed sort of like how Wickus’s mentality started to shift when he started to form a bond between Christopher and his son.
    Probably my favorite scene in the whole entire movie was when Wickus was in hiding in Christopher’s “lab” and his son viewed his arm and said “we are the same.” Not only was that moment extremely touching, but from Wikus’s reaction you could see how he was not only disgusted, but angry to be compared to a prone. Although at that point in the movie he was beginning to understand the aliens more, he still was disgusted to even be compared to them. It kind of goes to show that even though you may think your staring to understand something or someone, you truly will never know what it’s like to experience it first hand. It kind of also represents how the humans thought they were so superior over the aliens, and even when Wikus was practically half alien he still had this twisted mind set.
    Overall, I think this movie was amazing at representing the history of Apartheid in South Africa. I also really thought the movie was a fantastic learning experience. I feel like I wouldn’t of felt as deeply connected with the whole situation if I had read it out of a history book. Watching the movie and making these deep connections with it, really made me understand these events more. Maybe schools should reconsider the way they try to approach lessons like these. I never knew I could learn so much from a sci fi movie.

    • November 22, 2014 5:21 pm

      This movie is definitely a good example of why we shouldn’t judge a book (or a movie) by it’s cover. A lot of the reasons you listed for liking it, are probably why it’s one of the few Sci-Fi movies ever nominated for a best picture award at the Academy Awards.

  14. Brian Cottingim permalink
    December 2, 2014 9:25 pm

    In the past, I have seen this movie but have never been able to understand the meaning to the movie. After learning what an apartheid was it deepened my understanding for the movie and the real life event.
    The part that stood out to me the most ( as Emily said ) was when the alien child said, “We are the same” This made me think into the apartheid, blacks wanted to be equal to whites. We as humans are closed-minded and scared of the unknown. Because whites thought the blacks were weird, unusual, and non-human, they thought they were better. Ethically that is incorrect to most modern day people. But back then, they didn’t know better.
    Although Wikus was closed- minded then, when he experienced the suffering of the alien he became aware of what the aliens were going through. I’d like to compare him to Frederik Willem de Klerk ( president who broke the apartheid) . Although he didn’t turn half black, he did understand what the blacks were going through, he fought to end the apartheid.
    In the end, I learned a lot about the apartheid that happened in South Africa. Although I didn’t care for the movie, it’s a lot better than reading out of a textbook. Plus, I learned how the people living in the apartheid era felt about the situation.

    • December 5, 2014 12:32 pm

      I like the line “it’s a lot better than reading out of a textbook.”. I think that should be on the TAP t-shirts this year.

      And, I’m glad you were able to make those connections. It’s interesting that you’d seen the movie before, but didn’t connect to it on that level until you had started researching South Africa for this trip.

    • cj moody permalink
      February 7, 2015 1:24 pm

      Did your view on the movie change a lot or a little when you made the connections?

  15. CJ Moody permalink
    February 4, 2015 4:58 pm

    This is VERRRYYYY late, I watched the movie over christmas break but never really got around to posting about it. Throughout the first part of the movie, to be completely honest, i couldn’t really connect and tie it in to the history of South Africa… Which is where all of the history lies, but at the point when the history was basically cut off and went straight into the sci-fi portion, i was able to take a second and connect the puzzle pieces, from the segregation to forcing the race out. I really agree with Austin when he said he had hoped for more history, the SciFi portion was good, but the history that was hidden within the movie made it all the more better. I’m not completely sure how i didn’t notice it earlier but the history was my favorite part of the movie, being the part that really intrigued me. After watching the movie i told my brother and my dad how it all came together and why we were watching it and I feel like that really made the movie 10x better. Even though they weren’t reading the books with me when i went to Japan, they both said the movies would get people more involved with the discussions and I would 100% agree with that.

    • February 4, 2015 6:45 pm

      Better late than never, CJ. I’m glad you made the connections to history they had hidden in the movie. Was there anything you learned from seeing those people/aliens in that situation that you think will impact your trip?

      • cj moody permalink
        February 7, 2015 1:12 pm

        Not only does seeing the conditions impact the trip were going on, but I’m sure most people could agree, it impacts the way you look at life, and how you treat people.

  16. erin seymour permalink
    February 7, 2015 4:39 pm

    I’m sorry this is so late. I watched it back in October but I see I have not posted about it yet so I am very sorry.
    I thought this was an interesting movie. it was unrealistic and I did not enjoy him coughing up black muck. I can see how it was so stressful for him though. after he accidently got injected by the needle, everything started to crumble for him. he was so stressed he wanted to cut off his hands
    the aliens too were very weird, the people were treating them like humans though. the way they were treating them was somewhat similar to how white people in south Africa used to treat the blacks, not very frightened of them, like people would be if aliens actually landed on either today, but they were being very disrespectful to them and I think the aliens in the movie represented the blacks in south Africa. don’t you think. the whole movie ties into and shows the history and conflict between the white African’s and the black African’s.

    • February 7, 2015 4:55 pm

      We’re glad you caught the connection between the movie and the history of Apartheid in South Africa. Do you think they movie would have worked better without aliens, or did that hidden meaning make it a better movie?

  17. Kate Gall permalink
    February 22, 2015 1:29 pm

    Like Erin, I watched this movie back in October and thought I had posted a comment, but I guess I forgot. It took me a while to get into this movie, but towards the end it really got my attention. I think using aliens helped me understand a little better of what Apartheid may have been like in South Africa. Using aliens in the movie showed how human fear of something different or unusual from what is considered the norm, can bring out the worst in people. The reference to segregation, experiments, humiliation, and ultimately eliminating an entire race is unfortunately real history. We can only hope that history does not repeat itself. I think using Sci-Fi to make these points is a good idea since many people like myself enjoy watching Sci-Fi.

    • February 22, 2015 4:39 pm

      Why do you think the filmmakers chose to tell the story of Apartheid through Sci-Fi rather than in a more traditional way?

  18. Yazmine Thomas permalink
    February 24, 2015 7:06 pm

    I watched this movie when it first came out, and honestly I thought it was boring. I recently re-watched the film and I liked it a lot more than I did when I was 13. Knowing some historical background about South Africa before watching the film helped me recognize its allegories. I was able to make connections between historical events and events in the movie. I agree with the fact the movie is a allegory for the apartheid; however, I think it addresses other issues in South Africa. For example, I think it addresses illegal immigration. After some research I realized at some points in the movie it does. The scenes involving a lot of violence depicts the conflicts amongst the natives and the immigrants in South Africa.

    • February 25, 2015 9:01 am

      Which do you think the filmmakers were trying to get across – the apartheid allegory or the problem with illegal immigrants in the townships?

  19. Haley Watson permalink
    March 21, 2015 3:38 pm

    At first I didn’t really get how the movie related to South Africa, (other than the setting), but it came to me when Wickus changed into an alien. It struck me how Wickus didn’t know how bad his organization and community treated the aliens until he was put into their shoes and changed into an alien. That aspect related a lot to discrimination (especially the discrimination against blacks in the apartheid era), and how oblivious people can be on how poorly they treat people, until they are treated with the same lack of respect.

  20. Ronnie Stovall permalink
    April 6, 2015 9:45 pm

    To tell the truth I fell asleep through the movie. I wasn’t really into it at all. I had to watch it again a few times since it wasn’t the best to me. All I got is a man got blasted by alien particles and his hand is turn into an alien hand. The police are trying to track him down so he can be tested on and used as a weapon for them. I really didn’t see much discrimination. I noticed more of the aliens being miss treated than the people. Since they are cut off from the world. I wasn’t really sure the blacks that lived in district 9 were being mistreated I need some help understanding that. I saw them serving the aliens food so I guessed they lived in the area cut off from the world. The thing I liked was the little alien he was nice little fella. I was glad the man helped them get home and wondered if there was a number 2 of that movie since the Aliens last words were I will come back. So that means he will help the rest of his kind which was the best part of the movie.

    • April 7, 2015 7:07 am

      I think you missed something important during your nap. The entire movie is an allegory for Apartheid (and the treatment of immigrants in South Africa in more recent times). The aliens living in the township represent the oppressed people, while the white government represents… well, the white government. I was hoping you’d see those parallels while watching District 9.

  21. Ronnie Stovall permalink
    April 7, 2015 8:14 pm

    Well that’s more of an explanation that I can understand the movie a little bit more. About what it represents.

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