starring Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, Nathalie Boltt, Sylvaine Strike
screenplay by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell
directed by Neill Blomkamp
by Walter Chaw An unlikely marriage of Alien Nation and David Cronenberg's The Fly, Neill Blomkamp's remarkable District 9 is that occasional genre picture that's both topical and so good it made my stomach knot. Set in South Africa, it opens by rejecting the Eurocentrism of most science-fiction pictures. Here, the little green men don't hover over the Lincoln Memorial or the Eiffel Tower, but rather Johannesburg, where the malnourished, crustacean-like denizens (they're called, derogatorily, "prawns") of a giant mothership are quickly relegated to a barbed-wire enclosed slum, the titular "District 9." Its parallel to Alien Nation is obvious, down to that film's equation of aliens with Chinese immigrants in San Francisco; these are the "bestial" blacks of Afrikaner nightmares: physically powerful, engaged in illicit activities, and blamed for every casualty outside their heavily-segregated "district." But where Alien Nation identified the threat to that immigrant community as an insidious ghost of its traditional past (an opium allegory? How 18th-century), District 9 satirizes the numbing effect of cable news networks, as well as the dangers faced by any outcast culture trying to eke out subsistence existences on the fringes of majority society. In a very real way, District 9 is a film about not only the corrosive potential of grossly-overfed public perception, but also the immigration debate that rages on worldwide.