District 9, one of the most anticipated alien flicks in decades, opened this weekend. And yes, I nearly went into cardiac arrest trying to find tickets and seats for Saturday. Rest assured, I made it happen. I love sci-fi films. I particularly love sci-fi/alien films that make intriguing social commentary on humanity and the humans who, sometimes, give it a bad name. District 9, in a nutshell, is a tale about a group of sickly aliens who park their mothership above Johannesburg, South Africa. Malnourished and frightened, the aliens are transported by humans to a refugee camp in the city. The South African people grow to hate the aliens. They view the aliens as your classic intrusive urban pain in the arse. As Root contributor Teresa Wiltz wonderfully describes in her District 9 review, the aliens evoke thoughts of Africans from the Middle Passage, Native American on the Trail of Tears, and the black townships of apartheid South Africa.
Now let me get to the meat: Nigerians are in the film too. A group of Nigerians move into District 9 and set up a bartering system with the extraterrestrials. The Nigerians provide cat food and fresh cow and/or pig heads for sustenance in exchange for alien weaponry. The Nigerians also provide prostitution. Yeah, District 9 goes there. Unlike a few friends of mine, I thought the Nigerian component in the film was provocative. In the film the South African government is trying exploit the aliens and their weaponry. So why not the Nigerians? What happened in Rwanda, Sudan, Congo and Somalia should be a clear indication that faulty humanity doesn't always come packaged in white. However, some would argue that behind the crazy of most black African nations is the face of white colonialism and imperialism. My point is that District 9 used an alien visitation to tell an honest story about how humans exploit the "other", and one another. And, IMHO, exploitation is colorless. I suggest everyone check out District 9 and let’s start talking.
Keith Josef Adkins is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter and social commentator.