30 July 2009

The significance of District 9 on the South African movie landscape.

I think this is shaping up to be an exciting year for South African stories expressed via film. Later this year we’ll see the release of probably the most important film to come out of South Africa based on events surrounding the 1995 Rugby World Cup (won by the Springboks) titled either The Human Factor or Invictus, directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Matt Damon as Springbok captain Francois Pienaar and Morgan Freeman as THE LEGEND Nelson Mandela. (Would love to see the scene where Freeman hands over the trophy to Damon)

But before that one we’ll see the release of a movie that is definitely something we’ve never before experienced in South African film history: a film without fake American accents, set and shot entirely in South Africa, with no overseas stars and undoubtedly the biggest budget ($30 million) of any previous film and yet it is amongst the genre films coming out this year that is receiving the kind of buzz comparable to the release of a Hollywood movie made by James Cameron or Stephen Spielberg.

That movie is called District 9 and it has been setting the internet abuzz with anticipation due largely to the involvement of Peter Jackson, but also due to a very intriguing trailer that has gone viral since its release a few months ago. And now after seeing the movie, websites such as Ain’t It Cool News and Chud are singing its praises, even going so far as to say that the special effects are better than that of another hotly anticipated sci-fi movie coming out called Avatar by the King-Of-The-World™ himself James Cameron.

Well, that has to be seen to believed, but in the mean time it’s great that for the first time in a long while I’ve been this excited by a movie, and local one nogal! The movie tells the story of aliens (the live-long-and-prosper kind) landing in downtown Johannesburg and are met with resentment and hostility by the locals, forcing government to round them all up into makeshift camps, a scenario which is eerily similar to the incidents of xenophobia we’ve experienced recently, something which I guess was a lucky accident for the filmmakers as it will make the film all the more relevant. Well, for us South Africans anyway.

For Americans and others it will be just another kick-ass sci-fi movie, and perhaps much more if early reports of just how great this film is are to be believed. Apparently the director and co-screenwriter of the movie, Neill Blomkamp, made a short film involving the same scenario, and upon which District 9 is based, called Alive In Joburg, and it leaves me wondering exactly where does one get to see films like these as they are hardly ever publicised and never EVER shown on TV where they should be, and I’m such a sucker for a sci-fi premise set in the real world.

So I wish this film all the success of a bona-fide Hollywood sleeper hit ($40 million opening weekend States side??) and I’ll definitely be the first in line on opening weekend. Try and stop me you local haterzzz! (yes, you KNOW who you are, don’t pretend!)

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