When you enter a three hour class and are told that you will be watching a movie it is comparable to hearing that you have won a lottery! Sometimes all you need is a visual example to really drive a point home.
Over the past semester we have covered many aspects of the South African history pertaining to apartheid and it was a bit shocking to see such a serious topic transformed into an alien invasion. In all honesty I was less than thrilled to have to sit through District 9 of all movies when all I wanted to do was embrace my warm bed and a cup of tea. I’m not quite one for sci-fi or aliens. I would say that I am a sucker for good metaphors, allegories, symbolism and anything that requires you to “decipher” a movie or book which ultimately peaked my interest.
The first ten to fifteen minutes of the movie were nearly identical to some of the documentaries we had watched. Some of the characters stated that they didn’t care where the aliens went as long as they left. If you were to replace aliens with blacks the line would be nearly identical to any number of the documentaries we have watched.
The movie used District 6 township as a basis for the idea of District 9 where all of the Prawns live. Identical to the real life townships, District 9 is filled beyond capacity with dilapidated tin huts, filth, death and disease. It seems as though there always has to be the “other” in any society. I also noted a similarity in the roles, or lack their of, between the movie and South African history. In history they were expected to grow up to become maids or gardeners and they knew nothing else. To them that was what life had created for them and their were no ulterior options. In District 9, the Prawns were essentially workers where they came from so when they landed on earth they were lost with no one commanding their every move.
We got to talking about how we think the divisions in the movie will compare to what we will see in South Africa. We were told that yeah we may see townships, huts and filth but our experience will be more of a Disney Land tour. I found this very intriguing because it is true. Although we are spending two weeks in South Africa, there is only so much that we can do and only so much that we can see. It’s hard to accept that we will be seeing these people living in such conditions only to be returning to hotels. I want to be able to connect with the South African people and I want them to know we are there for them and we want to get to know their stories. We may be traveling in a bit of a bubble but I want to get rid of that idea and focus on the people of South Africa.
The movie may not have been exactly what I would choose but I realized it wasn’t about the movie. We don’t pay tuition to watch a movie, we pay to expand our minds, to expand our learning capabilities and to be able to see the bigger picture. The movie was a tool to form a web between all of the information gathered from the documentaries in a way that we could engage in discussion about the movie.