I know I'm really late but finally saw District 9 after holding out on giving that fool my hard-earned money because I heard it was problematic.
It is an appalling piece of trash which appropriates South Africa's recent traumatic past and current social problems to serve up as entertainment. The forced removals, the discourse about the aliens not really understanding property ownership - all of these come from very recent white supremacist actions against and discourse about black south Africans. Word for word almost, these were the same things said about us. Even the armored vehicles used in the army invasion scenes were the very same vehicles used to terrorize us and shoot at us when I was growing up in a township in the 80s.
The camp in which the aliens live is a replica of similar camps which exist today, in which the SA government cordons off immigrants from elsewhere in Africa, supposedly for their own safety. Plus, millions of black South Africans live in conditioins just like those depicted in the alien settlement - I find it very disturbing that the film unproblematically displays these appaling housing conditions as part of a sci-fi dystopia, while millions of real people actually live like that. and of course, this is not to mention how cheap the sets must have been to create (just move a few black families out of their homes) in comparison to the profits this film has raked in.
The film trades in the worst stereotypes of African people (corrupt Nigerians; cannibalism, aliens stealing your shoes, setting alight cars and trains for entertainment - really? really?) - just another example of cultural violence inflicted upon African people. Within the first five minutes of starting to watch this, i could not believe that this film was allowed to be made or see the light of day! I can really not believe that someone would turn all these painful past events and steroetypes into fodder for white entertainment around the globe, and reinforce racist views of Africans as violent barbarians. I found it incredibly offensive.
Thanks Bianca for feeling my pain and helping me process it. Sure you can quote me on your blog. There's one thing I want to add, if you will allow me:
The title District 9 plays on the events of a settlement called District 6, which was a very vibrant part of urban Cape Town during the first part of the 20th century. It was racially mixed, cosmopolitan, and by most accounts a progressive, transgressive space. During the 60s-80s, the apartheid government systematically destroyed the community by forcibly removing the poeple who lived there and dumping them in ghettoes created on the outskirts of the city (my grandfather grew up there). They did this through extreme violence, by ripping people out of their homes, then buldozing the entire space, flattening it so that there were not even remnants of the people and place. They destroyed the community, and it is a really painful part of the indigenous people's history in Cape Town. The area is still a gaping hole and blight on the landscape where District 6 once stood - they never redeveloped it or did anything with it, just moved everyone out and destroyed the vibrancy of community.
So when i first heard the title of this movie, it was obvious that the filmmaker was referencing this space, and I assumed that he would be making some commentary on the injustice of its destruction, and the ongoing travesty of the urban space still standing empty whent there is a housing crisis in Cape Town that leaves many families homeless. At the very least, I expected that the memory of this place, which to me and many others borders on sacred, would be treated respectfully. But no, the memory was appropriated and exploited, embellished with these disgusting racist stereotypes of black people as violent savages, and served as entertainment.
OK, I think my rant is over - thanks again for listening! much love, B
DISCLAIMER: I only saw the first 1/2 hour
Sunday, February 28, 2010
Sunday Night Common Sense
Today I want to quote one of my favorite people in the entire world. My homegirl Barbara is a Black South African writer, mother, partner, scholar. We met in a PhD program in Women's Studies. I had asked her what her thoughts were regarding the film District 9 because all of the reviews were from a very US-centric space. She finally watched the film and agreed that I could share with you all her thoughts here: