MADRID, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 10:  Director Neil Blomkamp attend 'District 9' photocall at Villa Magna Hotel on September 10, 2009 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Eduardo Parra/WireImage)
Movies - TV
District 9's Location Led To Some Unsettling Overlap With Real Life
Based on his short film “Alive in Joburg,” Neill Blomkamp’s “District 9” sees the segregation and brutalization of the crustacean-like aliens stranded on Earth. Although a work of fiction, the film offers harsh critiques of segregation and xenophobia, as the story parallels the apartheid era of South Africa, which ended in 1994 but has had lasting repercussions.
One of the most chilling images in the film is District 9 itself, a collection of run-down homes that appear to be mainly constructed out of scrap materials. Unfortunately, the scenery wasn’t a work of fiction, as the film was shot on location in Chiawelo, South Africa, where the buildings’ former residents were evicted from the area under the guise of the RDP’s protection.
Blomkamp explained, “There is this thing in Africa called RDP housing, which [is] government-subsidized housing, where they will build you a brick house in a different area of the city.” While this sound promising, the South African government admitted that “[m]any contractors had built shoddy houses,” and “[t]he quality of the houses built in the province began to collapse.”
The creatures in “District 9” and “Alive in Joburg” also face harsh discrimination that sadly reflects some South Africans’ attitudes. “Alive in Joburg” features interviews filled with xenophobic remarks about the aliens — made worse by the fact that Blomkamp simply interviewed actual people about their thoughts on migrants. Many of these problems and attitudes seem to persist even today.