September 9, 2009

Alien nation


The continual presence of the ship forces one more question. Who is it who arrived, uninvited, in South Africa? Who is it who came one day in a ship, and stayed, and did not leave? In Johannesburg: who are the aliens?
An excellent piece from a South African writer on the year's other most discussed movie: District 9. While those who lived through Apartheid in South Africa will surely have picked up nuances in the film that escape those who did not, as du Toit suggests, New Zealand viewers are in an unusual position. The film's New Zealand executive producers -- Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh -- are both old enough to have been aware of, and surely sympathetic to, the anti-Apartheid movement of the 1970s and 80s, whose largest and most visible event was of course the nationwide protests against the 1981 Springbok tour. That was an identification with an international cause that hasn't been matched since in New Zealand politics (and probably has no precedent, either). I'd be very surprised if Walsh -- then active in post-punk groups like Naked Spots Dance and a Victoria University English Lit student -- wasn't one of those who marched in Wellington in 1981 or was close to those who did. And apparently it was Walsh who first suggested to South African film-maker Neill Blomkamp that he expand his short Alive in Joburg into a feature. New Zealanders helped put Apartheid on the international stage nearly 30 years ago; it's an impressive irony that we've just done it again.