Friday evening I treated myself to District 9 and was not disappointed. It had a viable plot and the CGI graphics helped me quickly forget I was watching something another human being made up. Peter Jackson has been making quite a name for himself and this movie did not disappoint. However, when discussing the movie the following day with the boy, he asked, "Can't you just watch a movie for its entertainment value?"
My response: "That movie was not made for pure entertainment purposes."
At least in my opinion.
**WARNING: Spoiler alert**
An alien ship, we learn, broke down just over Johannesburg, South Africa. Right away I thought it interesting that a ship carrying *other* beings would stop over one of the more historically racially/tribally divided countries in the world. Then I thought, "Whew, at least it wasn't the US."
For nearly 3 months the ship hovered of Johannesburg. One day it was decided the military would go up to check things out, cutting a hole in the ship. They found the aliens to be starving, malnourished and unable to take care of themselves, perhaps because they had not anticipated their ship breaking down.
In the good Samaritan sense, it was decided to evacuate the aliens from their ship and certain death, placing them an internment camp which eventually became a heavily militarized slum. Other Africans set up shop within the camp, exploiting the aliens, selling them meat and cat food at exorbitant prices. Piles of trash were found throughout the camps. There was no running water, electricity or insulation for their “homes”, which were made of aluminum and/or wood pieces.
The movie begins with an interview of a gentleman, Wikus, we later learn was put in charge of evicting the aliens from District 9 so they could be moved to a refugee camp called District 10. The team bribed the aliens with cat food or threatened them with military action if they didn’t sign the eviction notice.
Throughout the movie we see flashes of varying signage declaring particular services for humans only.
So far does this remind you of anything? Apartheid anyone? Or how about segregation and slavery in the U.S.? The list of repeats could go on.
When speaking to the boy, he stated the reason for the heavy military presence is because the aliens had become violent and combative. I asked if he, too, wouldn’t have become that way if he had been exploited, oppressed and discriminated against for the last 20 years. What if someone were to decide all white men needed to be evacuated and held in slums like those aliens, wouldn’t he begin to lose hope, become desperate or possibly even violently angry?
Then I went on to mention how it has been proven over and over again that projects do not work. That refugee camps do not work. That internment camps do not work.
Yet we seem destined to repeat our same mistakes in an almost cyclical fashion it’s almost predictable.
Ghettos breed hopelessness, desperation, shame, anger and even a learned helplessness. Out of these emotions comes violence, because when you look deep under the surface, oppression and exploitation can be found. Keeping the undesirables hidden away amongst themselves will not cure the problem.
Instead, accepting everyone equally will. Something District 9 did not show us very well I think.
At some point in the middle of the movie, Wikus, when fiddling with a weapon "Christopher" made, was sprayed with a black liquid that eventually turned him into an alien. We watched as Wikus was experimented on and with then, nearing his disintegration, almost killed for his parts.
Wikus has a chance to save him, Christopher and Christopher's son yet chose to be the selfish white guy he really was. But he couldn't operate the controls and got shot down by an anti-aircraft missile.
Blah blah blah Christopher gets caught, Wikus feels bad for his earlier transgression then aides in getting a beat down Christopher back to the large ship that was started by his son and moved in position over the smaller vessel. Christopher was beamed to safety as Wikus stayed below to hold off the soldiers, who eventually perished at the hands of the angry aliens.
The 1 million plus aliens were eventually moved to District 10, a refugee camp that was made of the smaller white tents we've all become accustomed to.
And the wait as another 20 years pass before someone decides to move them to another sort of camp began.
Labels: discrimination, ethnicity, privilege, race issues