District 9 (2009)
All men are equal. Allegedly. In practice, the truth is somewhat different. There’s a huge difference between the life of someone living in a developed country and someone living in a slum in the third world. Ideally, everyone should be treated the same, regardless of gender, nationality, age, sexuality, etc. But in the real world, it doesn’t always happen that way. You watch the news and see some of the atrocities that people commit against other human beings. If that’s how we treat other human beings, how would we treat aliens?
Aliens have landed. They’re sick, malnourished, and disorganised. They need our help. Instead we show them the ugly side of human behaviour. Instead of love they are shown heartless bureaucracy, racism, and fear. Welcome to District 9.
District 9 is a movie presented as a documentary being filmed in South Africa. 20 years ago aliens arrived on earth. Since then, they’ve been relocated into a slum, become a point of tension amongst the community, and become a problem nobody really wants to deal with. MNU, the organisation that has been set up to deal with the aliens, is embarking on a new project. They are going to demolish the slum and relocate the aliens to a camp well out of the city. Accompanied by heavily armed mercenaries, they descend on District 9 to evict the aliens.
Science fiction has a rare gift. It enables us to say things about our society that we can’t say in any other genre. How the humans treat the aliens is a metaphor for how refugees are treated in our world. The aliens are treated the way I can imagine people run out of their homelands are treated in refugee camps all over Africa. But you’ll never see a movie about the subject act so raw and openly. The humans treat the aliens like they are animals, less than human. They refer to the aliens by racial slurs. Aliens are beaten and killed like they mean nothing. There is one scene where a hut full of alien eggs, their means of reproduction, are incinerated. The officials make jokes about the alien abortion. A civil servant is given a souvenir of his first abortion. Jokes are made about how the eggs set on fire sounds like popcorn. It’s sickening. Their attitude is evil wrapped up in red tape and politics. And this kind of thing is going on in the real world.
About half way through the movie, the style shifts from documentary to a more straight up action adventure movie. The transition is pretty smooth and never lets up on the theme of the inhumanity of humans. At the end of the day, the aliens are merely resources to be exploited by others. They are not treated as sentient beings. They are not treated with love and compassion. They are merely things to be used.
To the best of my knowledge, there is no extra terrestrial life on earth. Yet there are still those in our world that are treated in the exact same way. They are treated as less than human. They are kicked out of their homelands. They’re victims of daily brutality and violence. They have barely enough food, water and provisions to survive. This is going on in our world right now. And more often than not we remain blissfully ignorant.
Our father God calls us to love all people. To look after those who are vulnerable in our world: the sick, the poor, the widows. District 9 reminded me that those of us in the developed world do a really poor job of loving those in the undeveloped world. Am I loving the refugee in Africa when I live a comfortable life and don’t do anything to help them?
District 9 is a great science fiction movie. While violent and gory in parts, it will challenge you to think. As you watch the opening scenes, I challenge you to think of the aliens as human beings. Think of them as Sudanese refugees. Or any other people group in a similar situation. And then see if how you think about these people remains the same.