Posted by: reformedmusings | August 22, 2009

District 9

District 9 tells an interesting story wrapped in a classic science fiction motif. Let there be no mistake – District 9 isn’t about CGI effects, although they are good; its not about shoot-outs, although it has some good ones; and its not about alien technology, although it has a good share. Rather, its about the human condition that transcends time and space.


In brief, the story concerns aliens who appear in a large ship above Johannesburg, South Africa. The South Africans rescue the aliens from the ship and give them refuge in a section of the city, but the “solution” proves troublesome for both the aliens and humans. The aliens apparently cannot return home, and after 28 years, the South African government decides to hire a private firm to resettle the aliens in a new camp some distance outside the city. Things go downhill from there.

That District 9 was made in South Africa helps put some of the action and events into perspective. Unlike the politically correct Hollywood drivel, District 9 names names. It realistically and accurately portrays a few cultural groups. Thanks to the Internet, Americans will generally get it. Some Americans may think that the callousness and brutality of some groups depicted are exaggerated, but such people have probably never been to Africa.

I found a broader parallel between the movie and South African history. This goes back to the era of apartied. The U.S. had a roughly similar, though not as extreme, experience with segregation. Most Americans probably won’t get the references to the more recent resettlement promises that have landed South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress, in hot water with its constituency. The shanty towns in the movie are typical in many parts of South Africa. Not all the parallels are perfect, but they are there. But even if you have no background in South African history or politics, the movie tells a timeless story that unfortunately repeats on virtually every continent from time to time.

Against this backdrop sits a compelling and personal story. The actors in District 9 are unknowns in the States, which helps draw the audience into the plot. You actually get to know the key characters, including some of the aliens. Like real life, all have both virtues and flaws.

The cinematic techniques used at times make District 9 seem more like a documentary than a movie, but that also adds to the realism and immediacy. The beginning is a bit disjointed, but the story picks up rapidly after a short time. And it’s a good story.

District 9’s story harkens back to classic science fiction, when stories had points, often philosophical or sociological ones. The special effects and sci fi setting are the backdrops for the real story. There’s plenty of action and suspense to keep your attention, as well as the interaction between the characters.

If District 9 had been made by liberals in Hollywood, they would have made it arrogant and preachy. Fortunately, the South Africans simply made it a compelling story with human interest. Every side in the movie has flaws for all to see, just like real life. The main characters change and grow through the film, occasionally changing fortunes.

I enjoyed District 9 and recommend it for older teens and adults who enjoy classic sci fi. I believe that the occasional language, violence, and intensity, while fitting the context, are too much for younger viewers.



  1. […] all good science fiction, including District 9, the movie leaves you with some things about which to think. I enjoyed the movie and believe that […]

  2. It was a welcome break from aliens appearing only in US. And I just loved the movie.

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