2_perseph: (goffena)
[personal profile] 2_perseph
When I saw the movie a week ago, I had already been made aware of a seething anger towards it, as viciously racist, though I was not sure of the reason for the sentiment.

I didn't look into it before going to see the movie because I wanted to know as little as possible about a movie I was admittedly fascinated by. I had been at the midnight showing of Wolverine, and this movie's teaser came on.

Bored two seconds in, and ignoring the odd sensations I was getting wondering why there was a trailer for a documentary about refugees trailing before a comic book action movie, I had leaned over to my friend and whispered, "For once, can we not have a movie about Africa that has to be about issues and poverty and refugees? You know what would be nice? If they panned up from that ghetto and showed hovering over the city, a big fucking alien mothership--"

I'm not ashamed to say that I teared up when I saw that big fucking alien mothership hovering over Joburg. It was a feeling, as an African living in the West, I cannot describe. It was as if, after centuries of being denied a life, that every time we were portrayed in film in the Western world, we had to have issues, we were finally allowed to just be part of the creative world. That our creativity, divorced from perceptions of the rest of the world, was finally on the international stage.

It was a moment I'm unlikely to soon forget. And, it looked like a truly remarkable science fiction film.

And I was not disappointed.

But rather than being able to come online and read some excellent commentary on this astonishing work of filmmaking, I had to come to noise and vitriol from the press and the blogosphere about the "unbelievable racism" in the movie.

Revelations first. I'm a Nigerian female. I've lived all over the world and traveled back and forth between Nigeria and everywhere all my life. I was born and raised in one of the southernmost cities of Nigeria, on the shores of the terrifying Atlantic and the heart-stopping rainforests. So from this perspective comes all what I have to say on this matter.

As I said, accusations of racism are at the root of the cries and "anger" on the internet, centered mainly around one thing-- the portrayal of "the Nigerians" in the movie, "the Nigerians" being a gang of rabid criminals in the alien ghetto who play the role of exploiters in the movie.

The placement of the word anger in quotes is intentional on my part and is the root of my own boiling anger toward the responses I read, and was the reason I had to delay my post a week.

Because rather than a single one of these commentators asking a very simple, rather unassuming question, that is, why the director would chose to portray a group like this, they instead embarked on a fucking truly astonishing ride of sanctimonious indignation.

Anger on behalf of all Nigerians? On behalf of all blacks? On behalf all black Africans?


From individuals who have never been to Africa, never experienced what the filmmaker has seen or experienced, never cared to simply ask what the fuck, but who want to assume that what they know from their own experiences should apply?

Where to even begin?

If this subject is of no interest to you, needless to say, feel free to skip. I'm definitely not here to harsh anybody's buzz.

But if you care to read on, read on.

Neill Blomkamp, the director and co-writer of the movie, is a 30 year old filmmaker from Johannesburg, South Africa. At the age of 18, and in possibly some of the worst years of the post-apartheid fallout, his family left South Africa for Canada.

That departure at that particular point in the country's history, means, effectively, that he and his family are white. (At that time whites fled the country by the thousands out of everything from stupidity to guilt-fueled fear to fear for their physical safety in the midst of escalations of violence.)

Blomkamp is in fact a white South African male. Which means, on a subject matter like this, i.e. a film making a metaphor of apartheid, it's a legitimate cause for concern. More on that later.

For now, let's return to the central focus of all the anger: the portrayal of "the Nigerians" in the movie. As scammers at the least of it, and violent, brutal cannibal/flesh eaters at the worst of it. Complete with a painted, screeching witch doctor at the heart of the gang leader's motivations.

The scenes with "the Nigerians" are "shocking." They leave--and evidently left--most of the viewers who saw it sputtering with rage. Enough to set the webs ablaze, and probably affect the movie's box office.

But... what happened here? People walked into a movie and saw something that seemed to strike gongs of recognition to vicious images that had justified centuries of European slave trade and colonization on the African continent. And in a 2009 movie by a white South African male! The audacity was too much to believe! How could this man DO such a thing??

And no one stopped, not even out of simple intellectual curiosity, to ask why he would do such a thing. Why, in this day and age, and being a white guy from South Africa, why would he think he could get away with something so blatant. Was he just that uncontrollably white South African, read: racist?

Well then, before I continue any further, let me inject fact into this discussion.

This is the way some Nigerians are.

In Nigeria there is brutality and ritual cannibalism and tons of other unsavory shit you don't want to hear about. These things go on every day right on the outskirts of our cities, and sometimes inside them. I don't know what it is about Africans, maybe it's because the human race originated there, but believe me when I tell you that our passions run deep. And if you're a psychotic criminal then I guess those passions warp into something else entirely, and take on the aspects mentioned above.

District 9 portrays a gang of psychotic criminals. Not Nigerian tourists, not Nigerian professionals working in South Africa, not the Nigerian people. Psychotic. Nigerian. Criminals.

This is what you see when you are standing in Africa. Neill Blomkamp did not make this up, and he did not portray a lie.

Had the outlandish horrors in Rwanda, the Sudan or the Congo been dramatized as part of a movie's plot, on what basis would the outcry of racism come? Or would that be okay because the West has already politicized and Amnesty Internationalized those issues?

This is what Nigerian criminals are doing in Johannesburg. This is the fear they're spreading all over Africa and anywhere they can in the world, terrorizing other people in their own countries. It's too bad if this is shocking to Western audiences, but if anyone would take a minute to read up on things, they would see that these things are not a secret.

In this vein, one interesting thing of note. Note that the head of the Nigerian gang, this animal of a man who treats even his fellow humans as less than stray dogs, is called "Obasanjo."

Obasanjo is the name of the former Nigerian president.

Not one Western reviewer caught this. Not a one. This massive fuck-you to the happy-go-lucky institutionalized brutality of African leaders.

And why did no Western reviewer catch this metaphor? Because no reviewer in the West actually cares what's going on with Nigerians. It just feels better to get offended by the white guy showing blacks as bad people.

All right. And now for the real issues to be addressed:

The legitimate concern that it does no good to reinforce stereotypes to a Western, and especially an American, audience.

Correct. But Neill Blomkamp cannot be held responsible for the education of the American people. If Americans cared an iota about racial portrayals in entertainment, they would educate themselves about the blacks who are here and suffering from being stereotyped everywhere in the media, and they would shake up the blogosphere every time shit was thrown out in a sitcom or a movie.

But no.

Then the argument that it does no good to show "Nigerians" in this light.

Sure. It is worth noting, though, that no one seems to differentiate normal Nigerians from a bunch of fucking criminals.

But let's give a margin for such error, and ask instead: In what light should Blomkamp depict Nigerian criminals? In a politically correct and palatable light? That because he's shown "ugly" Nigerians, he's obligated to show "good" Nigerians? Obligated to whom?

Like any true creator, he is using things he has seen in his own experience, and just as we're allowed to use our crazy aunt Hilda for a plot thread, so he's allowed to use Nigerian criminals in his movie. He owes Nigerians nothing.

Then there's the more general concern that blacks in film can and tend to be portrayed in certain unsavory ways. Absolutely correct.

But can we not have context anymore? Are we not allowed to show negative factual portrayals of a group of people when the rest of the movie treats everyone - blacks, whites, aliens - with a remarkably even hand? Seriously?

Every human being has the right to be judged on her/his own merits. And Neill Blomkamp deserves no less.

Had this movie been made by a Nigerian man, and instead of Nigerian thugs, he portrayed Ethiopian gangs doing fucked up things in Nigeria, would there be an uproar by audiences? I don't think so. I think what would happen is that there would be a sort of held-breath moment and a sort of Hmm, followed by a "Well, I guess he must know what he's talking about."

So let's judge Neill Blomkamp on his own merits:

Had Blomkamp made a movie with no blacks in it, with all the characters and faces across the board being white, and then had the only blacks in the movie being psychotic gangsters, then I would say, yes, something is wrong here.

Likewise, had he had all the blacks being in weird servile mode to the whites, all the characters split in function along skin color, then I would flip my middle finger and shove it to him hard and without the joys of lubrication.

But his cast is multiracial, and the interviewees, the employees, the soldiers and the bosses, all are treated equally in the movie, both blacks and whites having the same type of dialogue and focusing the hatred and "otherness" on the aliens themselves, a tact which spoke volumes to the subject matter of his movie.

Yes, the hero is a white guy, but so what? The impressive thing about the writing is that every character, whether human or alien, is "normal," in the sense that they're flawed. Here, the hero is everything from racist/xenophobic to dumb and shortsighted. But in that sense he embodies the potential of all human beings to grow into something better than how he or she began.

And lastly, the concern from some [mostly Nigerian] quarters of Blomkamp showing "too much."


We Africans are the farthest thing from idiots. We're highly educated by the hundred of millions, yet we continue to return home and do or tolerate stupid things. If one of us makes a movie showing this, then let's not jump all over them. Nigerian gangs are a terrifying problem in Joburg, a city in a country suffering from its own problems. If any Nigerian is truly offended by a movie showing Nigerian gangs misbehaving in SA (which I seriously doubt-- don't you have problems of your own instead of worrying about what criminals are doing in a country you've never been in?), then let's pressure our government to get stricter extradition laws passed in those countries. And if you're in the West passing judgement on some white guy who dared to show what he sees through his lenses, then try and imagine having these gangs infesting your neighborhoods. Sorry, but truth is truth.

If this is offensive to you, then don't come to Nigeria, and certainly don't watch Nigerian movies. I'm not saying Nigeria isn't the most wonderful place on Earth, but you might not make it to see the good stuff if you can't make it past the shock stuff.

Blomkamp has made a movie only an African could make. One showing Africans (blacks, whites and everything in between) as we really are, the nonsense we get up to on the continent. Raw, painful, true, and not sanitized for Western audiences a la movies like Black Hawk Down.

Africa is a complex place, and Africans are complex people. Don't let the color of their skin fool you. A caucasian or an Indian or a Lebanese person who lives in Africa for even less than a generation, so long as they live there and call themselves African, is African. That continent is like no place else on this planet. Perhaps calling yourself African is synonymous with calling yourself human, for once that wind passes through you, whether it's on a plain or across a jungle river, you're one and the same with me who can trace my ancestry in the sands.

So, socially and politically what do we do with a movie like District 9?

Well, maybe this will inspire other filmmakers on the continent to someday pick up the myriad stories, texts and experiences that seem ripe for introduction to the rest of the world, and do movies free of perceived obligatory subject matter. Is that too radical a concept for our First World/Third World paradigm? Or with the boom of satellite television and the existence of shows like Big Brother Africa, has the time actually come?

So. This is the point at which I take a breath and let the anger go. With the advent of District 9, I see African filmmaking in a before and after.

Now all that's left is to mention that Blomkamp has made a watershed science fiction movie.

I could talk about the absolutely fresh use of just about every cliched convention in the genre (that is, that the movie hits all your scifi sweet spots), and I could talk about the brilliant structure of characters, and about use of pacing, and the courageous lack of spoon-feeding an audience, and on and on.

But instead I'll explain that what I mean to say, when I say a watershed science fiction movie, is that in the best possible sense of the genre, he does not make it easy for you to like, or even to understand, human beings and society.

He does not, as one blogger vomitously put it, make all the aliens "peaceful and kind" (because, of course, it would be more palatable if "the aliens weren't so unpleasant." That way, a Western audience could love them, childlike perfection in their victimization), so that the decision as an audience member, unlike in real life, is made simple: love the aliens, hate the whites humans. Um, no.

The movie is meant to be about apartheid in South Africa and the dynamics of whites splitting society into whites and non-whites during that period, and the aliens are meant to represent the victims (non-whites) of that system. The movie plays out mostly along those lines.

But in the end, as Blomkamp himself put it: "At some point, the metaphors and allegories break down. They disappear, and you just have science fiction."

This is the finest implementation of metaphor, or allegory in a creative work. Because at some point, the work has to be able to stand on its own merits. 


on 2009-08-23 03:27 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] mrsbean.livejournal.com
Due to nothing more than circumstance, I have not yet seen the movie. Now I'm glad I hadn't. I've read the reviews you speak of, most with a raised brow, questioning.

Thank you for a perspective that none of us has. You've hit on a lot of issues, not the least of which is the ignorance of America, and frankly, much of the world. Sadly, both you and I know that isn't going to change anytime too soon.

Please tell me that you've sent someplace outside of LJ, for wider consumption.

on 2009-08-23 06:08 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] 2-perseph.livejournal.com
I don't really know where else to submit the article. I was thinking I'd try the Huffington Post, since they seem to have all sorts of bloggers. And elaur suggested IMDb when I first told her about it. I'll probably do the latter and email the former with an inquiry.

on 2009-08-23 03:30 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] ladymalen.livejournal.com
*just sits in silence for a minute and remembers why I adore the hell out of you*

I don't have much to add, since I haven't seen the movie but I have seen others rants about it. Thank you for showing another side of this. You, my dear, are made of awesome. *hugs you lots*

on 2009-08-23 06:05 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] 2-perseph.livejournal.com
*hugs you tight* Thank you, I needed that.

on 2009-08-23 06:13 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] ladymalen.livejournal.com
*hugs back*

I could go on a rant about the Western media and 'developing' countries and their plights, but I won't. I'll just say they have their heads up their arses and whitewash far too much to make what little the do report fit for squimish American consumption. In the end that serves no one, not the people who need help nor those who could actually do something--or be moved to do something-if they got the whole story.

on 2009-08-23 04:38 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] ixchel55.livejournal.com
District 9 is a movie I've wanted to see since I saw the first promos for it simply because it's Peter Jackson and I really like scifi, but I hadn't read anything further on it.

Throughout a huge chunk of the 80s and 90s just about the only representation of Jamaicans and Colombians on TV and in movies we saw were of vicious, drug peddling thugs but I'm pretty sure I never envisioned and entire country inhabited by nothing but criminals.

But thank you for this additional slice of historical and cultural insight before I see the movie. Even if I hadn't read this I'd like to think I would have taken it in context.

on 2009-08-23 06:05 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] 2-perseph.livejournal.com
It's the things the Nigerian gang is up to that I think shocked audiences enough to make such a stink. Never mind if such things are fact. It just seemed too outrageous for people who had never heard that such things are taking place, I guess.

I hope you do get to see it. It's one hell of an enjoyable ride. And Peter and Fran deserve a prize for this championing.

on 2009-08-23 05:23 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] darkflame173.livejournal.com
Sadly, I think the onset of overly political correctness has made westerners *too* sensitive, to the point that people forget that some "stereotypes" are there for a reason. Just because someone is black doesn't make them automatically persecuted against, or good at heart, or anything like that, any more than any other human is. People who cry "racism" seem to be throwing out a knee jerk reaction, especially if they are white, trying to prove that they "understand" when in reality they don't get it at all. I guess they are trying to say "see! I stick up for you! love me!" or something to that end.

That being said, I would like to see this movie. I'm glad it goes against the hollywood grain. I hope it makes so much money it stinks of it, lol. You go, independent filmmaker! I'm glad Peter Jackson attached his name and power to it, otherwise it may never have seen the light of day in the US.

on 2009-08-23 05:57 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] 2-perseph.livejournal.com
Peter and Fran deserve so much credit, it's not even funny. They gave their movie their full backing, producing talents, and more importantly, they got their power players in Hollywood to help finance the movie. I don't think it would have seen the light of day anywhere without them. God bless them.

And I agree with you 100% about the over-sensitization, and it producing a knee-jerk reaction. If we can't have, or we ignore context, the result will be hysteria every time. Not very productive toward anything.

on 2009-09-02 02:42 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] darkflame173.livejournal.com
I love Peter and Fran, fer sho. I am considering seeing the Lovely Bones, though I have never read the book, nor thought about it, because he made this film, therefore it must be interesting. XD

on 2009-08-23 05:29 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] elaur.livejournal.com
I've been skimming the reviews at IMDb and while they are pretty much mixed, the overall score is 8 out of 10. Most of the thumbs-down reviews are complaining that it's all been done before, a rip-off of every scifi flick known to man, schlock, bad script-writing, etc. So out of curiosity, I did a word search of the reviews, and the only references to racism I found were on the positive side -- meaning that the reviewers thought that the racism was portrayed well. As for Nigerians, that was also rarely mentioned, and mostly regarding incomprehension as to why they were even used -- why not just SA gangs? Personally, that would have been my question, being ignorant of the situation. Overall, the reviewers at IMDb were surprisingly intelligent (even if they gave a bad review, they weren't stupid about it) and spell-check was used, but I only went through the first 20 pages.

on 2009-08-23 05:48 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] 2-perseph.livejournal.com
That is very good news to me. I did see the high rating it got, and was so very relieved about that.

I don't know if it's clear in my essay but he used Nigerian gangs specifically because they're the ones notoriously going around exploiting and scamming wherever they can. Had he used SA gangs, it would have rung hollow and untrue, and probably audiences in Johannesburg would have asked him which Johannesburg he's living in.

And in some respects, it's the logical, scifi end of some of the scams Nigerian criminals are pulling today. I lmfao'd when they mentioned the "catfood scam." It was evilly perfect.

on 2009-08-23 05:59 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] elaur.livejournal.com
Yes, you were clear about why he used Nigerians. Beside the fact that some Nigerians were scamming the whole world over the internet not too long ago (I even watched a Nightline episode about it), I didn't know that there are Nigerian gangs in SA right now terrorizing the populace, so my reaction would have been "He's using the Nigerians as a joke!", thinking about the internet scams. In fact, I did read a reviewer who thought the same thing -- thought of it as almost comic relief, not just because of the internet scams but because they were so "over the top" crazy.

on 2009-08-23 06:10 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] 2-perseph.livejournal.com
Sadly, the last part, no. lol

on 2009-08-23 09:28 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] elaur.livejournal.com
I am still vacillating as to whether to see this film or not, even though it's scifi. I am such a wimp when it comes to depictions of racial/religious hatred, or here, xenophobia. It's just too damn distressing I still have not seen Schindler's List, or The Pianist, or even something as white-washed (pun intended) as Roots, and I don't think I ever will. I was offered the DVD of The Boy In The Striped Pajamas and said Hell to the NO. I would just as soon see that film by the dolphin trainer from the show "Flipper" about the wholesale secret slaughter of dolphins by Japanese fishermen that is happening today.
Fake or based or real events, these things cause a painful impotent rage, and my dislike of humanity turns into hatred. But I hate everybody equally. :)

on 2009-08-24 04:37 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] 2-perseph.livejournal.com
I get ya. But bare in mind that, all the discourse it's raised aside, the movie is nothing but pure scifi entertainment: an action movie, often hilarious. With a message. Nothing like the two movies you mentioned, which are completely different in genre and tone.

on 2009-08-23 06:35 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] stewardess.livejournal.com
You have no idea how often I have checked your blog for this to appear. It's here at last!!

You have given me much to think about. I knew my revulsion at the film came from the parallels between the portrayal of the Nigerians and the centuries of European propaganda against Jews. I couldn't watch the film without seeing a call for a pogrom. What does my reaction have to do with African history? Not a thing.

But I'm still revolted by the artificial prolongation of tribalism in Africa. Most peoples of the world went through modern nation building (1776, 1789...) between 1600-1900. Even Germany was still a bunch of tiny fiefdoms in the 19th century, and Italy was even more of a mess. But because of European imperialism, Africa remained fragmented into the 20th century. The British, French, Germans, Italians, and Portuguese ruling classes were the ruling class in Africa, suppressing through military force the development of an African merchant class. Keeping tribalism alive benefited them, and they worked hard at it. So it makes me ill that Blomkamp, whose not at all distant ancestors benefited from the divide and conquer strategy... Okay. Shit. I get it. He was totally mocking tribalism, wasn't he?

on 2009-08-23 09:08 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] elaur.livejournal.com
the centuries of European propaganda against Jews.

While this is no laughing matter, what popped in my demented brain was Borat's portrayal of Jews. While blatantly ridiculous, no doubt there are people in the world who think similarly.

on 2009-08-23 11:16 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] darkrosetiger.livejournal.com
I appreciate your perspective, but I still have absolutely no desire to see this movie, in part because of comments like the one above, Sadly, I think the onset of overly political correctness has made westerners *too* sensitive, to the point that people forget that some "stereotypes" are there for a reason.

Any time someone's response to concerns about racism in media is dismissed as "political correctness", I wince, because that tells me that anything I say is going to be labeled "PC" and therefore, not worthy of discussion. I also note that the default assumption there seems to be that "westerners" = "liberal white people", as though none of the criticism of District 9 has been from people of color. While that criticism may be problematic from a non-American standpoint, I think it's worth noting that I cringed the minute I heard about the descriptions of the Nigerian gangs, because I'd bet money that a good chunk of the audience will walk away saying, "See! Black people are just as racist as white people--and they're secretly cannibals!" When we have people thinking that it's funny to circulate pictures of the President of the U.S. with a bone through his nose, I think there's some justification for being leery of what American audiences are taking away from this.

I'd be interested in hearing your take on this Nigerian-born blogger's criticism of the movie.
Edited on 2009-08-23 11:17 pm (UTC)

on 2009-08-24 04:24 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] 2-perseph.livejournal.com
First of all, I'd say see the movie. Honestly, there's no rationale in hating something without knowing what it is. I know how exhausting it can be to keep up with seemingly one after another of things like this, but the fact that the blogger in the link and I are Nigerians and had such differences of opinions might suggest that you see for yourself.

For instance, she didn't have a problem with the use of the word "prawns," laughed, and in fact got the director's intentions in using the word, whereas some bloggers went ballistic over the word as more proof of the director's racism.

When I say Westerners, I mean Westerners, not white liberals, but people who live in the western world and have had a different experience and world view from people who live on the African continent.

My view on the subject of educating American audiences remains the same. If they can't look at the movie and see the "normal" blacks, as well as the evil whites (who were evil - but one is pointing out that the corporation executives were "caricatured" as evil white men, because they factually were for what they had done during apartheid; though, of course, I understand the difference), then there's not much else besides a puppet show that can make things easier for them.

I think there's a demarcation between a reference to knee-jerk reactions based on wanting to champion what seems "politically correct," versus anger based on factual occurrences. No matter how repulsive to me, I cannot become angry over factual portrayal. And as I said in my post. Blomkamp owes Nigerians nothing, and he did not make any of that up. He had no obligation, as the blogger said he ought, to show one decent Nigerian.

Of course the blogger had a negative visceral reaction to "the Nigerians." Any normal human being would. But what struck me about her entry was, and it began to occur to me as I read it, that she had no idea where Blomkamp's use of that gang was coming from. She said some commenter eventually enlightened her about the SA/Nigerian gang problem. Well, I do know first hand the unbelievable terror Nigerian gangs are visiting upon the neighborhoods in Joburg. I know that if a black SA male had made that movie he might not go less easy on the portrayal of the gang, and I know that plenty of Nigerian filmmakers in Nollywood (our so-called film industry) have done worse in their portrayals of Nigerians. NOT criminals, Nigerians in general. And these are movies with mostly all-Nigerian casts (there are sometimes other Africans in there).

on 2009-08-24 04:24 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] 2-perseph.livejournal.com
Sorry, but her remarks about Obasanjo are either dim or disingenuous. Really, she hopes Obasanjo doesn't watch the movie and see himself being portrayed as a fucking psychotic son of a prick? Which Nigeria has she been experiencing for the last 8 years? I was in the Senate as a Legislative Aide when Obasanjo first became president. I sat across from him when he took meetings with my father. But you didn't have to be that close to govt to experience the living hell and the fear of God that man rained on most of the country. Why pretend now that he's some sort of... normal statesman? Give me a break!

And Alan Dean Foster's remarks about the use of the name being lazy writing is just.. I guess the nice phrase would be "talking out of your ass." Especially because nothing about the screenplay was lazy writing.

I'm sorry, but I found most of her remarks flip, and a majority of the issues she enumerated [that she had with the movie] vapid.

And as for the casting being mostly white, that is not fact.

I would not be saying any of this if I felt even a little bit that Neill Blomkamp was racist. What I found was a man who took a very rough subject matter by the horns and wrestled it to the ground, impressively. He did not set out to make a work of racism. He didn't even set out to walk around being oblivious as to whether his work turned out prima facie racist, and I feel no urge to jump on a easy bandwagon. He clearly put a hell of a lot of thought into the movie, and the casting was blissfully free of self-awareness when it came to the racial component. He simply went fast and furiously at his story and threw all sorts of characters at you - just showed Joburg - remarkably without meta commentary on how he does or should feel about the characters "as a white SA male." He saved all he had to say in the actual telling of the metaphor to apartheid.

And then it bugs the crap out of me that no one talks about the thoroughness of his exploration of apartheid. The fact that he puts it all in there: right up to the evil racial experimentation the corporations were doing on the "aliens." No, there have been no discussions on how close to the bone the man cut in accomplishing his goal in making the movie. Only noise about a bunch of fucking assholes because they're Nigerian. And meanwhile in Nigerian movies they're showing this stuff right and left.

And also, the battlebot at the end? NOT a Transformer. Rather, a killer scifi moment, among many. And none of which you see coming, which again, was what was so great about the movie as a work of genre science fiction.

Where the hell have the bloggers been over the years where movies like Tears of the Sun, Sahara and Wolverine (and even that fucking West Wing episode about the stoning; not to mention the LA Times and the NY Times and their bizarre made-up "uprisings" every other month) do more harm in portraying "Nigeria" as some weird place in which these weird people live and do weird-ass things??

I'm really, really sorry, I don't mean to rant at you. But I'm just so frustrated by the thoroughly knee-jerk reactions to an accomplished, complex film, as if it was fucking Birth of a Nation.

on 2009-08-24 05:52 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] darkrosetiger.livejournal.com
First of all, I'd say see the movie. Honestly, there's no rationale in hating something without knowing what it is. I know how exhausting it can be to keep up with seemingly one after another of things like this, but the fact that the blogger in the link and I are Nigerians and had such differences of opinions might suggest that you see for yourself.

I don't hate it, though, because that would require me to care more than I do. I had no intention of seeing it even before the reviews because it doesn't sound like my kind of movie. I've got a limited ability to sit through anything on the big screen, and this summer, my movie spaces are taken up by Star Trek, Harry Potter, and maybe Ponyo--which pretty much sums up my taste in movies (explosions, romance, pretty visuals, and some humor).

en I say Westerners, I mean Westerners, not white liberals, but people who live in the western world and have had a different experience and world view from people who live on the African continent.

I understand that you do. However, the person I was quoting from the comments did not seem to be making that distinction, and that bothered me. I think that non-white Westerners are going to have a different perspective than both white Westerners and Africans on the film, and if you're going to discuss the criticism of it in the blogosphere, then I think it's important to note that distinction.

Everyone brings their own baggage to any art, and for a lot of black LJ'ers in particular, we're coming in with eight months worth of abject failure on the part of the professional SF community to deal with race. Reacting to that isn't "political correctness", and I don't think it's fair to dismiss criticism of the racial issues in the movie that way.

on 2009-08-24 06:50 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] 2-perseph.livejournal.com
and if you're going to discuss the criticism of it in the blogosphere, then I think it's important to note that distinction.

Point taken.

My apologies- I didn't realize you weren't into scifi action movies (I think because of the SGA fic).

I know and understand what you're saying about the crap from the SF lit community. That all went down during the whole thing with my family unfolding and I didn't participate, but I read a trillion posts during, starting from Ground Zero, the OP that started it all. No, that debacle was the furthest thing from "political correctness." It was a time to do murder.

on 2009-08-24 07:40 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] darkrosetiger.livejournal.com

My apologies- I didn't realize you weren't into scifi action movies (I think because of the SGA fic).

No apologies needed! It's mostly that I have a low tolerance for gore--there were parts of LotR that I watched through my fingers. It's the same reason I don't watch Supernatural; the violence is just a little too realistic for me.

That all went down during the whole thing with my family unfolding and I didn't participate

*hugs* Yeah, you had a lot going on. And really, the whole thing was just a mess.

on 2009-08-24 04:52 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] stewardess.livejournal.com
I believe the movie would be way beyond your gore tolerance, even with the fantasy element.

on 2009-08-24 08:07 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] shrinetolust.livejournal.com
Thank you very much for this post. It's always helpful to get an insider's perspective on a film--and unusual in this case for you are criticizing the criticism. :)

This is interesting, too, because just a couple days ago I was reading messageboard comments on the last episode of The Philanthropist--which took place in Haiti. The majority of comments came from folks claiming to be Haitian. Most of them were outraged because they felt the writers had done no research--the actors and accents were wrong, and the issues were made up, etc. One poster criticized the use of slavery, which they said did not exist--and then they proceeded to describe something that amounted to lifelong indentured servitude. Which is pretty much what the show portrayed.

Anyway, then there were other Haitian posters who disagreed with the criticism, saying they were happy that Haiti was actually used in a show at all. They stressed that the show was fiction, and that *every* episode had made-up elements, and by the way, a lot of the less-than-attractive elements were true. :)

So it was like deja vu a little bit to read your post and some of the contradictory arguments in the comments. I think that what you said about exploring the context, and doing some research about the legitimacy of these characterizations is something that does get overlooked. The whole political correctness environment that's been mentioned above has left a lot of writers completely afraid to review a movie like this simply as a science fiction/metaphorical film. They're afraid that if they don't mention racism, they'll be called racists for not finding it racist. :P So they just take any negative element about Nigerians and sputter "racist" to protect themselves.

So, unfortunately PC hasn't gotten us very far. Most people are afraid to talk about anything, and no one learns anything that way.

Hope this made sense...it's 3am and I'm a bit fuzzy. :)

on 2009-08-25 03:33 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] 2-perseph.livejournal.com
The problem with the whole "political correctness" issue, as I saw it developing over the last 17 years (the length of time I've lived in America consecutively), is that it, like most good things, came out of good intentions. There was a sore need in this country for marginalized peoples to get to name themselves and have others respect those names, frames of reference, what have you.

What then happened is that guilt-ridden, malicious, or outright bigoted people started backlashing, and making fun of the concept and adulterating it. Before long, it became a sneer. And people who don't care to dig into the histories or motivations or even to look at the obvious reasons for human beings minorities wanting their own voices, began to knee-jerk.

So I get why "political correctness" has become a brush-off phrase.

It's not a problem I can correct.

Were it up to me, I'd start a slogan that says: "Forget PC, you're about to get the truth."

It'll certainly drop the forced "civility" and restraint in a lot of dialogues, and probably a lot of people today who're complaining about "that's just being PC" will beg for the good old days.

E.g: In America you say: "I just want to say, I think you're putting me in a bad position here by not doing what you said you'd do, even though we went over this yesterday, and the day before, and you promised me you'd take care of it, and I trusted you, and counted on you. But I have to say I'm sorry, but I think that next time... I'm going to have an issue trusting you."

In Nigeria you say: "You're very stupid."

on 2009-08-25 06:55 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] shrinetolust.livejournal.com
I agree that political correctness came out of good intentions, but I think the trouble with it didn't just come from the idiots. It comes from the fact that everyone has their own individual experiences, frame of reference, personal demons, whatever--even if they come from the same marginalized group. And so for every person that said "This is what you should do to not offend me," three other people would say, "Well *that* would offend me, so you should do this instead." So a lot of folks with good intentions to not offend started to feel lost and afraid, because they never knew if they were going to use the right words.

So then it all started to become about word games, rather than about just treating people with respect and fairness and inclusiveness and an attempt to understand a different perspective.

And I guess part of the problem with that is the American sensitivity, too. I know I've seen this discussed on LJ and elsewhere, about how if Person A just says to Person B "Hey, I don't like that you said that, or wrote your story character that way, and this is why..." Person B gets hysterical and assumes that Person A hates them and thinks they're a racist moron. Which maybe they do...heh...but a lot of times it's an attempt at sensitivity training that gets interpreted as an attack.

So, we end up with dialogue like you've referenced in your post...heh.

on 2009-08-25 03:46 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] 2-perseph.livejournal.com
p.s. The Philanthropist is a piece of shit show. The absolute worst in making shit up about third world countries. Sorry.

on 2009-08-25 06:26 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] shrinetolust.livejournal.com
I was so longing to see James Purefoy that I was willing to watch him in anything. I basically just took it as pure fiction with some real life, metaphorical parallels. Though I guess the fact that it's pretending to be based on real-life makes the inaccuracies more offensive.

No need to say sorry. You can just tell me I'm stupid. :)

on 2009-09-01 08:53 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] illuminated-sin.livejournal.com
Wow. I've got several friends who saw District 9 and LOVED it, who highly recommended it to me, but I haven't seen it yet (hectic schedule so I don't see many movies). Nobody could explain what it was about, they'd all say, "Just see it. It really makes you think" or something of that nature. I am SO glad I read your post, to give me a perspective from which to approach it when I get to see it. I'm sure I'll be thinking about all of the things you've said while I watch it. Thanks for discussing these issues so frankly. It seems this stuff really needed saying, and few are saying it.


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