Friday, January 8, 2010

District 9: Humans Are Not Welcome Here

That's the tag line in District 9. "You are not welcome here."

I rented District 9 from Blockbuster after noticing that it was #1 over where customers' favorites are shelved. I vaguely recalled the trailer at the theater, and seemed to notice that it had gotten a lot of tweets on Twitter. I also noticed that this was a Peter Jackson project and his Lord of the Rings trilogy was indeed an amazing achievement.

What really got me, however, was when the salesclerk said the story is told as a documentary. This intrigued me. As if this were something that our news crews were covering somewhere in the world, a real event. She added, "I didn't expect to cry when I saw it in the theater." That's quite an admission. Does a movie like Alien make people cry. No. Just makes you jump out of your seat a few times.

So I put on the film while doing taxes last night. Can I just say it blew me away? I found District 9 to be utterly compelling.

Here's a typical imdb reviewer's rave... "I will not go far into detail because I would prefer to not spoil anything. This is unlike any sci-fi we have seen in years. Forget Terminator 3 and 4, forget the AVP movies, forget all those laughable sci-fi movies, this film is what we have been waiting for. An original idea, an original concept, brilliantly executed, great CGI, good acting, it just has it all. We have seen many aliens come to earth movies, but this is different, I will not say why though. That is for you to find out when you see it, which I HIGHLY recommend you do."

And I agree. The original concept, brilliantly executed, with a story that offers more than meets the eye, is refreshing. My internal interaction with other questions it probes, such as race relations and social problems in Africa, also left me wondering how many layers were embedded here deliberately. Maybe like a great poem or piece of artwork, the reader or viewer takes away more than was there and adds to its depth.

The story of how the film came to be, and its origins outside the Hollywood starpulse factory, is also noteworthy. A Nikki Finke column in early November told how the 30 million dollar film came to gross more than 200 million by that point already.

"The secret of the indie's success, like Paranormal Activity, was that it was made outside the studio system and marketed outside the studio formula. The edgy and original content, the South African cast instead of Will or Adam or Brad, were thought to be integral aspects which the majors would have rejected during their own development process. "Audiences are driving the agenda and deciding for themselves what they want to see through Twitter and social networking sites," one insider explained to me. When District 9 was screened at Comicon, American Idol's Jordan Sparks alerted 220,000 followers how good the pic was. That's when the pic exploded in popularity. By the time it opened on a Friday, it was the #1 most tweeted topic."

So it was a marketing achievement as well as an achievement in film. But let's be frank, unless the product was good, the PR game would not have carried it. And this product is very good.

District 9. This one is worth seeing.

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