See This Film Now: District 9

It’s not just for 14-year-old boys. Here’s why.

by Carin Rubenstein

District 9, directed by 30-year-old South African Neill Blomkamp, is the most creative, most clever, most thought-provoking movie of 2009, at least so far. (Click that last link for the unofficial movie site, and you’ll see what I mean!)
This is the story of a giant spaceship, which landed 20 years ago, but not in Washington, D.C. or in New York or California, as every American movie of its type assumes. Instead, it parked just above Johannesburg, South Africa, much to the world’s surprise.  Indeed, the aliens inside, who look like tall, tentacled insects with mouth clickers, are referred to here, as “prawns,” which is a racial slur. Turns out, they were near death when they arrived, and had to be rescued by humans who segregated them into a city shantytown, called District 9. The movie is about how the creatures are marginalized and discriminated against by humans, and what happens when the man put in charge of displacing them accidently becomes more, shall we say, sympathetic to their cause. (I don’t want to give away any surprises here, because there are so very many of them, most of them unexpected and fabulous.)
The movie is an allegory about apartheid, but with a light touch. It’s about how we tend to treat anybody different as not equal; the joke is that all humans, black and white, discriminate against the aliens. Granted, there are too many guns, both alien and human, and lots of shooting and car chasing and gloops of bloody glop after the gun battles and crashes, but that’s what men like. The film has what women like, too, which is a story with depth and feeling and compassion. Trust me, when you start watching, you’ll feel grossed out by the repulsive, tentacled creepiness of these creatures, but by the end, you’ll be rooting for them to triumph.
There are no stars here, no Will Smith or Tommy Lee Jones to yuk around with clever or funny aliens, but you won’t miss them one bit.
Dare you to see this movie and NOT love it.  Double dare you.

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