District 9

2009 / TV

SF elements: alien refugees

dvd cover
District 9

[serving an eviction notice] 20 years ago an alien mothership appeared over Johannesburg. On investigation, it was found to be full of starving aliens. These were brought down to a refugee camp for humanitarian aid. Over the intervening years this has turned into a cross between a slum and a scrap heap, full of fast-breeding aliens not respecting human property, and selling weapons to Nigerian gangsters. Things are getting out of hand, so it is decided to move them to a more remote camp, where they will be less bother, better segregated. Wikus Van De Merwe is given the job of overseeing the move, including serving eviction notices, when he stumbles across a plot that changes him, and changes which side he's on.

[Bus stop for humans only] This is famous for being a low budget film -- not quite the $7000 of Primer -- made for "only" $30M. It is shot partly in documentary style, with a grainy, hand-held camera feel. But the aliens are good SFX, the scrap heap feel to the slum town is well done, and the "no alien" signage is excellent. It is compelling, in a very violent, grungy, and nasty way, with everybody being highly unpleasant. Only Van De Merwe has any redeeming features, and then only after he has been forced, literally at gunpoint, to see the alien "shrimps" as sentient. The whole film is an examination of man's inhumanity to man, through the lens of man's inhumanity to aliens.

Two issues: (1) I can't believe that the rest of the world would not have descended on Jo'burg over the intervening 20 years to study the aliens and their mothership; (2) if you are slowly, drop by drop, over a period of 20 years, distilling a litre of fuel, don't keep it all in the one flask in an unlocked shed.

Rating: 4

[ unmissable | great stuff | worth watching | mind candy | waste of time | unfinishable ]

reviewed 4 June 2012