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August 17, 2009 10:17 PM   Subscribe

District 9 has infected me, so to speak. I can pick up on the cinematic influences and the overt South African references, but surely there are more South African influences that elude me. Help!

D9 has overtaken my brain for the last day. I picked up on Enemy Mine, The Fly, Independence Day, Starship Troopers, The Office, RoboCop, and ET (among others) as cinematic references. However the references to South Africa namely refer to apartheid and District 6, but I also felt there were references to the mercenary movement in South Africa, witchcraft, shantytowns and underground economies. I'd like to know what other South African references I am missing...other than the obvious reasons already stated, what makes the location such a vital part of the movie?
posted by TomSophieIvy to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Not South Africa - but there was a very strong Blackhawk Down vibe that I picked up. D9 Rocks!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:27 PM on August 17, 2009

Best answer: Xenophobia for Dummies: A District 9 Primer
posted by Artw at 11:06 PM on August 17, 2009 [3 favorites]

--> "van der Merwe" (the last name of the main character, Wikus, features a lot in South African jokes about stupid people.

--> At one point in the movie, Wikus asks Christopher to "slow down with the clicks", an obvious reference to several black African languages (present in SA) that also use clicks.

--> "District 9" itself is a reference to District Six, a "colored", multiethnic area that was forcibly broken up and resettled.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:19 PM on August 17, 2009

Jokes told by Afrikaners typically feature an idiot by the name of "van de Merwe" and describe how he stumbles through life. Which is, cultural barriers aside, about as subtle a plot device as calling Al Pacino's character "John Milton" in Devil's Advocate.
posted by randomstriker at 11:28 PM on August 17, 2009

Best answer: From the comments: The Parktown prawn
posted by Artw at 12:24 AM on August 18, 2009

Best answer: Cool question and interesting answers so far, thanks, all. It's a great little film, not perfect, but the best scifi we got this year by *far*.

what makes the location such a vital part of the movie?

AVClub: What about Johannesburg made you want to use it as a setting for this film? What did it bring to the story?

Neill Blomkamp: In my opinion, the film doesn’t exist without Joburg. It’s not like I had a story, and then I was trying to pick a city. It’s totally the other way around....I started to get more and more and more interested in Johannesburg, which must have been because I grew up there, but separate to that, it became this insane sociopolitical interest of mine. I actually think Johannesburg represents the future. My version of what I think the world is going to become looks like Johannesburg. Every time I’m there, it feels like I’m in the future, so I was just very, very interested in the city. And then when “Alive In Joburg” happened, I thought, “What about if I just put science fiction into this? I’d love to see what that is.” So the whole film grew out of a love-hate relationship with Johannesburg, really. And then once I put the science fiction in there, which happened to be aliens arriving to Earth, which is a totally clichéd, normal piece of sci-fi that’s been around for a hundred years, all of these other much more serious topics that I was aware of consciously and subconsciously started to work their way into the film. So all the segregation and racism and everything else just kind of became evident, because you can’t get around that if you set a film there.

Bonus: you can watch the original 6' short the movie is based on at that page, too.
posted by mediareport at 12:49 AM on August 18, 2009
posted by evil_esto at 5:11 AM on August 18, 2009

Response by poster: Wow, great answers all around. The AV Club interview was outstanding.
posted by TomSophieIvy at 5:57 AM on August 18, 2009

Response by poster: Of course additonal comments are welcome!
posted by TomSophieIvy at 9:39 AM on August 18, 2009

While I thought it was a good movie in general, note that the main Nigerian gangster was speaking Swahili, which isn't spoken in Nigeria (or in South Africa, incidentally).
posted by ChuraChura at 2:22 PM on August 18, 2009

One horrifying, real-life parallel I caught was between the witchdoctors cutting off and eating the limbs of the prawns to absorb their weapons-wielding powers, and the same thing happening to human albinos in parts of Africa today. It's effing terrible.

D-9 was pretty amazing, though!
posted by alleycat01 at 2:45 PM on August 18, 2009

> I actually think Johannesburg represents the future. My version of what I think the world is going to become looks like Johannesburg.

Yeah, I can totally see that. Wow. So true.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:16 PM on August 18, 2009

Response by poster: Found on Fark : SciFi Squad tells you a dozen things you may not know about District 9.
posted by TomSophieIvy at 6:50 PM on August 21, 2009

I'd like to know what other South African references I am missing...

At one point, after starting to undergo his metamorphosis, Wikus walks into a fast-food restaurant and tries to get food. The employees are horrified by his appearance, and Wikus says something like, "You're legally obligated to serve me."

This is a reference to old apartheid laws that separated blacks and whites in restaurants.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:47 PM on September 8, 2009

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