A few weeks ago I went to see the new South African-made Hollywood produced movie District 9. It even feels strange to write ‘South African-made’ and ‘Hollywood’ in the same sentence.
More than just another night at the movies, District 9 has struck a chord in the community and I have found myself on more than one occasion in a heated debate about it. Now, I went to see the movie in the mood for entertainment. I still have not enquired if my new friends I saw it with heard/read any of the reviews before agreeing to see it with me. They walked out of the movie midway when I was at a point of excitement! I suspect this has no deeper meaning other than their lack of appreciation for a giant prawn on the big screen – guess they’re not into martians.
Anger that has been voiced surrounds the depiction of South Africa to the broader global audience, particularly pre-World Cup 2010. Now, I do not regard myself a movie critic and went to see District 9 for purely entertainment value. My meagre response to the naysayers is that yes this movie surfaces issues that our country is facing. Issues of xenophobia, local racism, nepotism and trying to keep ‘undesirables’ out of eyesight is something we need to work on. We should not be embarrassed my international perceptions but rather work on transforming our society. A wise man confronted me with the question yesterday “Are you an observer or an actor?”
I loved the action and was moved by the message that we often only have empathy for ‘the other’ when we become the other. I was ecstatic to see my hometown Johannesburg getting out there and that ALL of the cast was South African and not an American with a bad attempt at our accent in the leading role.
I say well done to Neil Blomkamp and Peter Jackson. I look forward to District 10!