District 9 finally opened in South Africa. What a bizarre experience: watching a Hollywood movie play out with South African accents and attitudes and familiar locations. Even the movie’s star, Sharlto Copley, is a friend of mine, and though I can be accused of bias for saying so, he’s really astoundingly good in this. The film’s pretty remarkable too; what an imaginative youngster can do with $30 million.
District 9 begins twenty years ago, with first contact with a massive alien mother-ship that’s come grinding to a halt over Johannesburg, South Africa. The ship’s survivors are mostly the thought-challenged worker drones of a colony of insect-like bi-peds – the locals call them “Prawns” – who are forced into an apartheid-style squatter camp, fifth class citizens of a country still rather keen on group classifications. All expectation of sophisticated alien technology, advanced science, superior weaponry, has not materialised, and the government is left performing bland cruelties on the visitors – there’s real, casual, thoughtless violence in describing how the aliens’ eggs pop when they’re set alight. The tag-line: You are not welcome here. Competing for scarce resources with the poorest of the poor, it’s clear that the aliens must be evicted, and in apartheid-style, worthy Afrikaner bureaucrat Wikus van der Merwe is charged with moving them on to a new, “improved” concentration camp. Which is when it all starts to go wrong…..
The movie’s title references the forced removals of District 6 in Cape Town, which still scars the city to this day, but there actually was a Region 9 in Johannesburg, an administrative district from 2000 to 2006. Situated in the south-eastern corner of of the city, to the north it met the Inner City along the Mining Belt and the M2. To the east and south, it formed the boundary of Johannesburg. Its neighbours to the west were Region 10, the Diepkloof/Meadowlands region of Soweto and Region 11, Ennerdale/Orange Farm. The region was abolished with a reorganistion of regions in 2006.