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Funmi Iyanda
Lagos, Nigeria
Funmi Iyanda is a multi award-winning producer and broadcast journalist. She is the CEO of Ignite Media and Executive Director of Creation Television
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Thursday, October 15, 2009

On District 9 (long, maybe too long but na jeje we siddon ke!)

I finally saw District 9 in London recently, I was a little curious about the Sci-Fi film from South Africa but when Nigeria banned it, I knew l had to see it.
Maybe I was a bit sluggish from a combination of the cold and a monster sized dinner or I would have jumped out of that cinema afterwards laughing or did l actually jump out laughing? Can’t remember, the wine was excellent.
Please allow me to laugh now. He he he he ha ha ha ha ka ka ka ka!! That movie is a joke and the joke is on its makers.
The critics, mostly patronizing non-Africans have fallen over themselves to praise it as an alternate surprise Sci-Fi stunner of this summer. They are right as technically, it has all the toys and gadgets and in a world of over slick, over stylized action movies, it stands out with its realism and grit. What they also praise are the metaphors around apartheid and segregation as well as a culture mix, which they are not as qualified to understand, much less correctly translate. Africa will always deliver grit and substance anywhere and any angle you turn your camera. Much the same way the celebrities come here for the babies and charity photo ops, so does the Pulitzer hunting journalist for the bleed that leads. The writers come for the golden sunsets and the rest of the pirates and philanderers for natural resources, conniving dictators and young sweet flesh. They don’t always mean harm. They see, opine and write only from their own perspective, which, often incomplete, gets the highest airtime because they have the advantage of power. They are often aided and abetted by Africa’s own self-loathing children.
It is the way it is.

So what the fuck was that with District 9? Yes l used the f word, which is about 70% of the lines that pass for dialogue in lead character Wikus’ (Sharlto Copley) lines. I have no aversion to the effective use of the f word, as one of my favorite West End plays was Jerry Springer the opera with a whole music score around just that word. Priceless!

The film could have be a nice retro Sci-Fi if only the plot was plausible or if in the absence of that, the dialogue was sharp and witty, deep and evocative or downright irreverent. It does have good points for effort and buyable technical quality but fails woefully in nuanced story development, script writing and casting. Don’t even get me started on the acting; the scene between Wikus and his wife on phone was pure Nollywood wannabe (note that Nollywood does not fool herself with pseudo Hollywood aspirations).

The so-called subtext of apartheid, segregation and otherness falls flat and only the African in denial, the non-African or the non-other will fail to see this.

Finally, what was that about the Nigerian mafia with its leader called Obesandjo (nice touch that), if it is a parody of Nigerians, should it not be convincingly so? Why not at least find actors who can speak and act like Nigerians especially in a film with 17 Nigerian characters. How about also developing the characters properly so we see the point of being Nigerians as those could have been a rag tag group of bandits from any part of Africa. Even as a metaphor, it would require that sort of authenticity or real comic lines and timing. Instead it looks suspiciously like what my people call bad belle, or worse, the ignorant cheat’s way of hanging our continent’s go to bad dog for ratings. Either way it is exploitative and unintelligent.

I have no problems with a parody of Nigerians but why not apply some creative genius and fun to go? Surely that does not cost much more than talent.

The scene with the female witch doctor is simply bad research and startling ignorance. A Nigerian mafia don goes to consult a female witch doctor! Tufiakwa! We are too blatantly sexist! There is a reason they are called babalawo and not mamalawo. Who ever heard of a female head of a shrine! Which self-respecting Nigerian politician, crook or idiot would go and swear or drink blood from a female witch doctor!!! If District 9 has a female Sharman, the Nigerian alpha male crime lord will not go to her, if the Neil Blomkamp wanted to milk a piece of fun out of that then the delivery should infer it. l suspect that scene came purely from watching and misreading themes from Nollywood movies (hehehe, they watch it too) which as l have told you have no aspirations towards such vexatious technical details of research and representation.
The film sadly betrays its makers as lazy or too contemptuous of Nigeria to do their homework. The problem with hatred is it betrays the hater’s weakness and Discript 9 shows up its makers as ignorant.

Now that I have that off my chest, what is the correlation between District 9 and Chimamanda’s danger of a single story TED talk?
Let’s talk about it soon.

In the meantime I recommend that you watch Woody Allen’s WHATEVER WORKS, Quentin Tarantino’s INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS and Todd Phillips’ HANGOVER which are the movies I’ve most enjoyed recently. I’ll do anything to have been part of the script/story development meetings for Hangover.

A gay, monochrome-cruise-wear-loving Chinese mafia don in high-heeled boots and gold bracelets? Mike Tyson singing? The tiger, the baby, the prostitute, the shrew and the boys, fabulous! My favorite lines? “You want to fuck on me?” threatens the naked Chinese mafia don as he leapt out of the booth of a car and holds off three clueless men with a monkey wrench. Now that is character development.


Reggie said...

Thank you jare Funmi. I actually made some comments about it after I saw it somewhere in New Jersey. You can read my take on it at http://calabarboy.com/2009/08/23/when-did-nigeria-become-a-slum-in-district-9-at-johannesburg/

Anonymous said...

You even went to see the movie. You're too gracious funmi...me it was an outright boycott. whether Nigeria banned it or not, I had no plans to see that movie. I will not stand for such nonsense!!!!!! anyways to more important things. I watched Adichie's talk, that was really sound. am down with a healthy contribution about the issues she mentioned...mehn! I so want to talk about the idea behind 'Africa' as a single and not as a continent. I am sick and tired of that thing. If you blog it that's all well for me as I want to hear people's experiences, cos I've got loads.

Temitayo said...

This is a very interesting view of the District 9 movie that we can no longer see...whatever it has to offer.

District 9 was obviously a victim of the single story; and sadly it was only their unresearched and badly produced perspective. And that's a dangerous position...

Dapxin said...

If only I had the time for sci-fi anything ?

plastiQ said...

What ! You wanna feck on me? LMAO. Feck you ! You faggots ! (or something like that). Hangover was a lovely movie.

Now, unto District 9, I always thought the movie producers would have an argument for the Nigerian scene (especially for the fact that the Nigerians did not speak any Nigerian language, in any Naija dialect or not even in our famous pidgin english)...there argument would be: The Nigerian gangster role in the movie portrays the way South Africans view 'outsider' or 'foreigners'. A metaphor of sorts.

Eniola said...

Personally I’m not a fan of Science Fiction because anything can happen in them and I guess that is simply cause it's a work of someone’s imagination (in this case a stupid and dumb imagination!) But still I don't get why Nigerians are mad about it.
Fine it says some things about Nigeria which we all know some are true and some not but is it worst than what is being portrayed in our own Nollywood movies? In nollywood movies we see Nigerians being portrayed as being selfish, greedy and ritualistic and we never react angrily to that, so what makes this different?
Cause it's being told by a non Nigerian? And according to Sony the movie was screened in Nigeria for two weeks and it was approved for release by Nigeria.
So what exactly should we be mad about? Nollywood for telling a single story about our beloved country, Hollywood for believing and buying into that single story or our Government for encouraging it?
This is just a case of blacks referring to each other as the "N" word and taking offence anytime a white man calls them that.


Femme Lounge said...

didn't get to see it before it was banned in Nigeria, have heard diverse opinions about it though.hope to see it sometime soon.

histreasure said...

i love, love, love this review of the movie..very well scripted.

Myne said...

Nice write-up, well thought out. Now let's forget D9, I wanna go see Hangover...LOL

pam said...

@Eniola Im your personal person BUT!

There is no Nollywood film where EVERY SINGLE Nigerian is either a canibal, a drug dealer, a thief , filthy, a prostitute that fucks aliens or ALL of the above combined. Even the filthy dumb aliens had a noble one eventually. Even the wicked oppressors had a compassionate one in the end. The Nigerians where one dimensionally disgusting to the bitter end.

This is a country where Lucky Dubes murderers told the judge in court that they shot him cos they thought he was Nigerian. Next time people are burnt alive for being foriegn and black Im sure Neil can pat himself on the back.

Besides what killed me was Neils caual explaination to the Huffington post... something like... everybody in SA knows that Nigerians though a minority are responsible for majority of crime. Errrm actually according to thier stats its not true.

As for the Obasanjo refference... South Africa should please note that every Nigerian administration Obasanjos included supported the ANC and led the diplomatic war to fight apartheid and bring it down.
Thabo Mbeki was a guest of our Govt in ABU where my uncle and aunt lectured. I went to Federal Govt Colledge with South Africans on scholarship.

Im not an Obasanjo stan but Im old enough to remember my history. If more of us did we wouldnt stomach such utter nonsense and endorse it.

pam said...

at least fighting apartheid and supporting the ANC is one thing every Nigerian Government got right. We organized the OAU to have a joint position when the "West" blatantly refused to take a stand, boycotted numerous international games, funded... i could go on

Do you know why Britain introduced visas to Naija? We caught a tanker transferring Nigerian crude to an apartheid south african boud ship and promptly nationalized the erring oil company with british ties. Visas were part of the punishment. The Obasanjo refference is really really the most ignorant, ungratefull, crass bull shit ever.

bArOquE said...

nice one Funmi, another interesting opinion on DISTRICT 9...i saw the movie when it came out & earnestly didnt think it was fantastic, no doubt the graphics was good...however, i didnt feel insulted as a Nigerian, i only thought it was a bit cheesy to act like a Nigerian & not even attempt to sound like one, besides other 'character' flaws...whoever casts a Mexican in an American film and has him sound like an Egytpian? Research was Zero, acting less then Zero...if the producer/director's plan was to disrespect Nigeria, i think he did a very poor job
HANGOVER on the other hand was a very well done movie...super!!!

Time Traveller said...

beautifully said aunty funmi...

Harry said...

I think this is the best review I have read as regards this movie... Thank you Funmi!!!

shawn said...

Okay! the movie has its inperfections but then i have a lot of unfair criticisms that are based on sentiments. I have watched a lot of movies, read comic books on war stories between the west(specifically Britain) and asian countries(Japan) with the west always winning the war. This is not the first time that hollywood would attempt to tell stories of other countries. They tell both negative and positive stories of Germany, Russia, Sierra Leone e.t.c all the time so why would Nigeria be different. Nigeria is faced with so many challenges (not problems) that I am sometimes embarassed at what we spend time and energy on. Cant we just wake up and face this real issues. Lastly ma, i have seen a lot of female traditional spiritualist. Try watch our own local nollywood movies esp the yoruba ones.