... Yet, few Americans (except the black critic Armond White, who has made himself wildly unpopular with fanboys of District 9 by pointing out the film’s strikingly caustic portrayal of black Africans) seem to grasp writer-director Neill Blomkamp’s subversive perspective, even though the exiled Afrikaner keeps giving interviews more or less spelling it out.
The American press constantly refers to District 9 as an “apartheid allegory,” but the 29-year-old Blomkamp was ten when Nelson Mandela was released. Blomkamp’s press statements can hardly be more explicit that the movie is largely a post-apartheid parable about illegal immigration and Malthusian despair.
In fact, Blomkamp is personally a victim of the gradual ethnic cleansing of southern Africa. Rampant crime under the new black government drove his family from Johannesburg to British Columbia in 1997.
But Americans just don’t get it because they haven’t paid attention to South Africa since 1994, when Nelson Mandela was elected President and then They All Lived Happily Ever After. Blomkamp told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Everybody in North America thinks of South Africa for white oppression of the black majority.” Yet, 15 years later, “what we’re not familiar with is this screwed-up Johannesburg setting.”
Just as 1981’s Road Warrior, with Mel Gibson as Mad Max, memorably re-imagined the defining Australian experience of living on an empty continent, District 9 symbolizes the lesson of Afrikaans history: on an increasingly full continent, the weak can eventually triumph over the strong by outbreeding them.
Much of District 9 is a video game-style shoot-‘em-up complete with the predictable teaming up of the rebel human hero and the single smart, nice alien hero (the Mandela stand-in) to battle the evil corporation.
Nonetheless, what gives the film its distinctive ferocity is its bitter Malthusian wisdom distilled from the Afrikaner diaspora. History may be written by the winners, but some of the most bracing fiction—for example, Disgrace, the 1999 novel about gang rape in the new South Africa by J.M. Coetzee, the Nobel laureate who fled to Australia in 2002—is written by history’s losers, such as the Afrikaners.
By the way, here is a review of literary heavyweight (The Great Railway Bazaar) Paul Theroux's The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari, a trip through South Africa, Namibia, and Angola by Marian Evans in The American Renaissance. Like his mentor, Nobel laureate V.S. Naipaul, Theroux is something of a misanthrope, so adjust accordingly when reading Theroux.