Saturday, August 15, 2009

District 9: another country heard from

This is a unique film: a South African science fiction mockumentary, resembling a gritty B-movie, but with excellent special effects, using Hitchcockian tropes to grab the viewer and confound expectations. And that's just the form.

The content is a reflection not only on South Africa's heritage of apartheid, but on current problems dealing with immigration issues. The story revolves around an employee of a multi-national corporation, contracted by the South African government to relocate a settlement of cryptic, unattactive aliens from a camp near Johannesburg, and take them somewhere out of sight and mind.

As the protagonist of the film takes a hero's journey, beginning as an unwitting bureaucratic tool, so the story and the film grow right before the viewer. Part action-adventure and part humanistic plea for tolerance, District 9 confronts a lot of issues in the new world order.

Like much quality science fiction, the movie holds up a distorted magic mirror. It's uncomfortable to see ourselves there, but hard to turn away, and ultimately worthwhile. Highly recommended.