This week in class we watched a film called District 9. The film took place in Johannesburg where an “alien invasion” took place. The human community was very upset by the presence of the aliens, which they called “prawns.” The film was made as a documentary style movie focusing on a man named Wikus, who was in charge of handing out eviction notices to the aliens so they could confine them all in one area instead of their shacks.
The basis of the story reminded me of the film we watched, Dear Mandela. Much of the situation was similar to what was going on in the other film, which I wrote about in a previous post. The aliens were the parallel to the blacks living in the shacks. Part of District 9 showed, what were referred to as the “red ants” in Dear Mandela, demolishing the shacks that had been evicted. The evictions were in response to the public pressure for the government to remove the aliens from Johannesburg.
Evicting the aliens from their homes and relocating them was an attempt at segregation. This brings back memories of apartheid, and the still existing segregation of the different races in South Africa today. The film showed signs that prohibited the aliens from areas that allowed only humans as there were signs that prohibited coloreds and blacks from white only areas.
There was a lot of fear of the difference of the newcomers, or xenophobia. The aliens had tended to keep to themselves and had no intentions of disrupting or harming the humans’ lives. With no other basis to go on, the humans feared the presence of the aliens in their city. It is something that happens every day, people often don’t realize it when it happens, but people fear those who are different from them.
One example of this is after the terrorist attacks on the U.S. on September 11th, 2001. Osama Bin Laden became the image of terror for many Americans, which then lead them to falsely stereotype others who resembled him. The fear of another attack bled into fear of those who brought on the attacks and those who resembled or were connected racially to those who attacked. It is really unfortunate that such a phobia exists, but it is almost an aspect of human nature. Fear of the unknown seems to be a big reason people practice caution and self defense and unfortunately cause some conflict.
Originally I thought the movie would have no connection to South Africa other than the fact that it took place there. I knew it was about aliens, but would have never expected it to have such a relevant connection to what we have learned about South African history. I ended up really enjoying the movie and feel like I have gotten a much better and different understanding of the racial tensions that existed and continue to exist in the country.