I have a craving for cat food. My finger nails are falling out. To paraphrase the liar Bill Clinton, "I have never had relations with a Prawn". However, unlike the lie told by Bill Clinton, my claim cannot possibly be untrue. 'Prawn' is the offensive slang used by the population of Johannesburg, South Africa in the film District 9, to describe the aliens who arrived in the city in mysterious circumstances. Trapped in a derelict space craft hanging motionless above the city they are rescued, brought to Earth, and stuck in a walled slum, District 9. Separated for their own good, segregated, apartheid-ed, ignored, attacked, misunderstood, hated.
The film opens with a brief bit of exposition, essentially saying what I've just covered up there^, then goes straight into the first act. MNU, Multi-National United, the arms manufacturers in charge of containing and controlling the extra-terrestrials, are barging into District 9, heavily armed, to issue eviction notices to all 'Prawns'. They are to be moved to a new slum far from the people of Johannesburg. The wimpy wee fellow in charge of the operation, the film's human lead, is a disgusting shit of a man. Upon discovering a house full of alien eggs he gleefully rips out the life support, orders the place burnt down, and yelps with joy at the unborn babies audibly popping in the heat.
This is a brilliant film with many awful and unpleasant aspects. There are strong and clear themes of abuse, colonialism (such as forcing the aliens to adopt European names; the alien lead is named Christopher), and racial hatred. Humans have the unfortunate ability to think of other humans as being less than human then using this position to excuse awful behaviour. The aliens are not human, but they are sentient and highly intelligent; they have familial love; experience hunger, thirst, ambition, fear, hatred, addiction, extreme poverty...
District 9 is genuinely one of the best films I've seen in ages; I don't know how I missed it when it came out. It was recommended to me a couple of weeks ago as a shining example of thoughtful modern science fiction, then jumped out at me from among the dregs of the HMV sale. Between the teetering stinking towers of Bridget Jones' Diary and Twilight was District 9, Moon and a large selection of Jackie Chan classics. I picked up Wheels On Meals and Twinkle Twinkle, Lucky Stars. The guy at the counter raved about District 9; "have you seen it? No! Oh my, It's amazing! Do you like sci-fi?! You're in for a treat." He was right. Sequel please.
"Hell, this is nice cat food, you know."