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Saturday, December 15 , 2018, 6:15 pm | Fair 59º


Cinema in Focus: ‘District 9’

Giving us a visual parable of apartheid, Johannesburg native Neill Blomkamp provides an insightful science-fiction tale

3 Stars — Insightful

The message of Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 is obvious. He sets the film in the city of Johannesburg, South Africa, where the decision is made to create an apartheid separation of a race of aliens who helplessly arrive on a spaceship. The decision develops over two decades into creating a slum area of poverty, crime and prejudice. It presents a cinematic opportunity to explore what such a decision does, not only to those so separated but also to those who impose such a division.

As a Johannesburg native, Blomkamp writes and directs an insightful tale. Assisted by first-time screenwriter Terri Tatchell, Blomkamp uses a quasi-documentary format that allows the audience to walk with Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley) as he is given responsibility to move the aliens to a new encampment far away from the city. It doesn’t go well.

Nicknamed “prawns” because of their reptilian appearance, the frustrating segregation of the aliens produces resentment and fear in both the human and alien populations. As the frustration mounts, the company for which Wikus works, the MNU, is given authority to evict and relocate them. The humor in serving legal notice on the aliens easily translates into the unfairness of the use of such maneuvers against a minority population.

Using a common science-fiction form of three interwoven tales, the second story involves Wikus himself. Having been promoted to this position because he is the son-in-law of a company officer, it is readily apparent that he is not capable of such responsibility. His weakness transforms into a strength that becomes both biological and willful.

The third tale focuses on Christopher (voice by Jason Cope) and his brilliant son. As the commander of the alien ship, Christopher has worked for 20 years to gather enough fuel to power his escape pod and regain control of the mother ship. This determined leader is both courageous and sensitive with a deep commitment to his people.

The intertwining tales of the evils of apartheid, the transformation of the individual and the loyalty of leadership create an engaging film that is both insightful and powerful. That this is an ongoing tale is made clear and we look forward to the next installment.


» The prejudice that causes us to disregard the needs of “aliens” is an obvious message of this “message” film. What do you think is the solution to such prejudice?

» The decision Wikus makes to assist Christopher begins as one of self-interest. Do you believe his motivation changed? Do you believe Wikus will be returned to his wife in the next film?

» The return of the alien leader with forces to rescue his people implies that he will use force. Do you believe this is necessary? Why or why not?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.

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