- Category: Culture
- Created on Saturday, 15 August 2009 20:32
- Written by Sergio
This review first appeared on the Shadow and Act blog, which covers cinema of the African diaspora.
And those words are…underwhelming and troubling.
One of the most talked and highly anticipated sci-fi films of the year, the South African made District 9 produced by Peter Jackson, and directed by first time filmmaker native South African Neill Blomkamp, is definitely not the revolutionary game changer that the advance word has been buzzing that it is. (Though Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds could be, despite the fact it’s an undisciplined, problematic film that’s never less than fascinating to its bizarre twisted end. But that’s another story for another time.)
Equal parts Cloverfield and War of the Worlds, you know by now that it tells the story of an 20 year alien invasion in Johannesburg and what happens when an alien evacuation bureaucrat (played by Sharlto Copley) gets inflected with some alien goo loaded with their DNA, and starts to become one of them, setting off a race for his life, when he’s coveted by several factions.
The film starts off great and makes some clever social and political commentary, but about a third in, it basically becomes nothing more than one long chase movie with fancy alien weapons, and lots of exploding bodies, with some Transformer-like robot thrown in towards the big final battle scene. But as last week’s Variety review pointed out, the depiction of Black Africans left a lot to be desired.
In fact, the review was rather tame in describing the film’s offensive and regressive portrayal of Black people in the film. First of all, despite the film being set in South Africa, practically most of the black people appearing in the film are nothing but background fodder as extras with a few given a line here and there. The only potential major black character in the film, who plays Copley’s assistant, gets a few scenes in the beginning usually with a terrified, scared rabbit look on his face looking like he’s about to run for his life, and is not seen again until briefly at the end. Not exactly heroic.
The other main black characters are of course the evil bad guys, a Nigerian criminal gang lead by a deranged psychopath who, under the spell of some witch doctor, wants Copley so… get this… he can eat him to gain the strength of the aliens. Oh yes, with the witch doctor and maybe one or two brief scenes here and there, black women are virtually nonexistent in the film. Oh wait, there is the one shot of a black prostitute (of course) in which we’re told by voice-over that many prostitutes engage with sex with aliens in exchange for favors. Makes sense since black women aren’t human, so naturally they would have sex with non-humans too. It goes without saying that we don’t see any white prostitutes in the film. But we can’t have that. That would be simply too much.
First the Sambots in Transformers 2, now this. We’re in the 21st century right, but filmmakers still insist in portraying us like we’re from some Tarzan movies or great white hunter in Africa film from the 1940’s. You think they’re trying to tell us a message in these sci-fi films about us? The more things change, the more they stay the same.