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  • Writer's pictureJames Rutherford

'District 9': An Unorthodox and Allusive Science Fiction/Action Thriller from South Africa

Movie poster for the 2009 South African film District 9

District 9 (2009) is an arresting and unorthodox science fiction/action film starring Sharlto Copley as Wikus van de Merwe, a private contractor assigned the task of relocating hundreds of thousands of extraterrestrial lives in modern-day South Africa. 27 years after the creatures, nicknamed "Prawns", first arrived to Earth malnourished and desperate for salvation, they have since become pariahs relegated to the blighted "District 9" terrestrial camp outside Johannesburg.

After years of increasing unrest, frequent clashes between Prawns and police forces fomenting heightened fears amongst the general populace, the government hires Multinational United (MNU) to relocate the alien refugees to a new camp further removed from the city. As relocation leader, Wikus moves from shack to shack serving notice upon the Prawns, only to stumble upon a clandestine operation to synthesize alien fuel—the undertaking of a Prawn named Christopher Johnson and his young son CJ. Accidentally sprayed in the face with the alien fuel in the ensuing melee, Wikus subsequently finds himself slowly transforming into a Prawn himself—a dramatic turn that sets him on a blistering course of desperation and unexpected collaboration.

Co-written and directed by South African filmmaker Neill Blomkamp (Elysium, Chappie) in his feature film debut, District 9 is a galvanizing and often stirring allusion to Apartheid-era South Africa. Inspired in particular by the 1966 relocation of 60,000 black residents from the notorious "whites only" Cape Town community of "District Six", the film tackles systematic racism in a stunningly unique manner—crafting a penetrating science fiction thriller as cinematic allegory. Thrilling, thought-provoking and surprisingly touching, it's a grade-A satire of historical (and modern day) xenophobia brought to full cinematic fruition.


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