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District 9

District 9 is up against nine other films in the best picture categoy at this Sunday's Oscars. I've seen two or three of the other nominees and have plans to see some of the others when they come out on DVD; there's no telling who will get the Oscar for best picture this year although it seems like the two frontrunners are The Hurt Locker and Avatar.

I recently watched District 9 starring Sharlto Copley. For some reason I was under the impression that the protagonist, Wikus van de Merwe, was a soldier who gets caught up in events in the alien ghetto. However, this was a false impression.

Twenty years ago an alien ship came to earth; it came to rest over the South African capital of Johannesburg and there it hovered for months with nary a word or movement from it alien passengers. Finally a detail of humans were dispatched to breech the ship to reveal its secrets: mysterious alien technology and extremely malnourished aliens. The aliens were evacuated from the ship and resettled in a refugee camp on the outskirts of Johannesburg where the humans began a massive relief effort to feed, shelter and heal the aliens. However, it quickly became clear that humans and aliens couldn't peacefully co-exist, and so the aliens were restricted within the confines of the refugee camp where conditions quickly deteriorated to poverty level where crime rates skyrocketed and Nigerian crime bosses exploited the aliens and hooked them on cat food (crack for aliens, apparently, who knew?). This all smacks of apartheid except in this case its segregation of species rather than skin colors.

Now a decision's been made to relocate the aliens to another camp set up hundreds of miles from the city so that humans will be safe from aliens and aliens will be safe from humans. Wikus is the bumbling, pencil pusher office manager promoted to spear head the eviction notification efforts within the alien refugee camp. A camera team is dispatched with him to document the historical efforts. But Wikus and his team get more than they bargain for when they serve a notice on the alien, Chris Johnson, who has spearheaded his own efforts to collect the necessary elements to facilitate a return to the alien mothership and take his people home. In a search of Johnson's shack, Wikus confiscates a mysterious silver cylinder and is then accidentally exposed to its contents. Things careen from bad to worse when Wikus's arm is broken in the violent confrontation. As the day progresses Wikus becomes ill and it is clear that if he doesn't get help soon, his life will never be the same nor will he have a life to live.

First, Wikus must escape from his own corporation that is determined to exploit his condition, experiment on him for their own gains, and mine his body parts and DNA to further advance their alien technology and weapons research. Wikus then embarks upon a journey that will test his humanity, his own prejudices and beliefs regarding the aliens and humanity's treatment and exploitation of the aliens. It all eventually leads to a bittersweet and heart breaking conclusion.

This is not your average science fiction aliens take over the world movie. Instead the movie offers a fresh take on humanity's first encounter with aliens and it is bleak. The movie raises questions regarding issues of oppression, exploitation and prejudice, and the humans do not necessarily come out smelling like roses. A sequel is in the works called District 10 and I'm interested to see how it adds to the story of Wikus and Chris Johnson.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie


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