Nigeria bans ‘District 9’

Over at the Leftfield blog, where I also sometimes post, I recently put up a review of District 9.

The long and short of it was that I thought a great action/adventure/sci-fi movie (the only thing that really stands up to it to have come it this year genre-wise was the brilliant Moon) was seriously marred by some pretty heavy racism. The film is about a group of aliens whose ship gets stuck hovering over Johannesburg. The aliens then are forced to live in a segregated, disgusting slum, under the control of an archetypal evil corporation and their paramilitary mercenaries.

The real problems arise from the sub plot about Nigerian gangsters who have taken up residence to exploit the aliens. They are portrayed as thuggish and savage, which on some level you can excuse as a portrayal of gangsters. What crosses the line is that, in their desperation to gain control of alien technology, the Nigerians turn to “witch doctors” and eat the body parts of the aliens “to gain their power.” On top of this we’re told that they operate prostitution rings, with Nigerian women servicing the aliens sexually.

The portrayal of black people as cannibalistic, sexually voracious savages repeats all the worst stereotypes perpetuated by Hollywood for over a century now. It’s also really disappointing because I was looking forward to the film not only as a blockbuster, but perhaps as well as an intelligent allegory about Apartheid and its aftermath in South Africa. However, the ability of the film to tackle these issues is pretty fatally undermined by its racist depiction of actual black people (as opposed to allegorical alien ones.)

Now its emerged that the Nigerian government is furious about the portrayal of Nigerians in the film. Information Minister Dora Akunyili has asked cinemas to stop showing the film and has demanded an apology from producers Sony Entertainment. The government are also unhappy that the gang’s leader’s name closely resembles that of former President of Nigeria Olesegun Obasanjo.

Former Nigerian President Olsegun Obasanjo not amused by his name being used for a savage gangster. And yes, I couldnt get a picture of the actual character in the film so I used him instead.

Former Nigerian President Olsegun Obasanjo not amused by his name being used for a savage gangster. And yes, I couldn't get a picture of the actual character in the film so I used him instead.

“We have directed that they should stop public screening of the film,” said the Minister. “We are not happy about it because it portrays Nigeria in bad light.”

“We have written to the producer and distributor of the film, Sony Entertainment, expressing our displeasure and demanded an apology. We have asked that the areas where Nigeria and Obasanjo are mentioned should be edited from the film.”

Personally, I still really enjoyed a good portion of the film, although I felt let down by its rehashing of typical movie racism. It’s good to see Nigeria standing up against it, although I think banning the film might be going a bit far. It is certainly fair that Nigerians should expect an apology, and there’s also a Facebook page now called ‘Nigerians offended by District 9.)

The Minister also said that the government is trying to get the indigenous Nigerian film industry (which some reckon is the third largest in the world after the US and India, and which I intend to post about later) to help portray the country in a better light.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: