District 9: Far from Fiction

The film clip I chose is a scene from the movie District 9 (2009), directed by Neill Blomkamp. The movie focuses on issues of xenophobia, racial segregation, and class tension regarding the arrival of a number of alien refugees to South Africa. In this scene, alien Christopher Johnson is being evicted from his home by private military agent Wikus van de Merwe. The relocation of the alien population out of District 9 has been prompted by recent conflicts between humans and aliens, whom the humans derogatorily refer to as “prawns.”

The film itself is categorized as Science Fiction, noted for its striking visual imagery of the alien species and unusual depiction of human-alien interaction. At the same time, the film draws heavily from events of apartheid-era South Africa, during which black South Africans were similarly evicted from their homes as part of the creation of “white-only” neighborhoods. District 9‘s vivid illustration of racial tension and life in the slums for the aliens also hearkens back to our class discussions on NoViolet Bulawayo’s novel We Need New Names. In this way, the truly disturbing aspect of District 9 rests in its portrayal of how quickly human beings can begin to mistreat those they see as different from themselves, and how uncomfortably close the supposedly fictional movie lies to reality.

– Joe Joseph

2 thoughts on “District 9: Far from Fiction”

  1. I think that science fiction can be a really great way to explore contemporary issues. However, if we accept the interpretation that the aliens are used to represent the black population of South Africa it is a bit of a curious choice. The fact that the aliens are biologically different from the humans could imply some sort of biological race essentialism.

    -Tanya

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  2. One reason Blomkamp chose to have the aliens be a stand-in for the black population while being biologically different was to allow for the protagonist, who is one of the leaders of the expulsion project, *spoilers* to gradually find himself becoming one of them due to an accident. This forced new perspective of persecution would be impossible to show if the aliens had been biologically identical, or if Blomkamp had just used the black population of Soweto. I think if there’s a sense of race essentialism it’s more of an accidental side effect than anything else, but I haven’t seen the movie in a while.

    Katie

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