Alive In Joburg

Documentary-style report on aliens stranded in Johannesburg - precursor to District 9

Genre: Science Fiction

Length: 6.24

Free To View

5 out of 5 stars

Producer/s : Sharlto Cropley, Simon Hansen

Director/s : Neill Blomkamp, 

Writer/s : Neill Blomkamp, 

Actor/s : none, 



Alive in Joburg is the precursor to Blomkamp’s District 9, one of the best SF feature films of the last decade.

It’s a fake documentary/news report about aliens stranded in (and hovering over) Johannesburg, South Africa. As such, it doesn’t attempt any narrative, and it lacks the feature’s hapless protagonist van de Merwe (who would be played by producer Sharlto Cropley).

Alive in Joburg is an early demonstration of Blomkamp’s mastery of CGI and effects. It’s not just the alien throwing an armoured car at the military hiding behind a massive concrete pillar that impresses, it’s the cracks that appear in the pillar when it hits.

This is another of those science fiction films that ask what it is to be alien (or android, or replicant), and hence pose the question of what it is to be human. It hints at the military’s interest in the aliens, a theme which drives District 9. The alien “prawns” are there, fully formed, the hovering spaceships, and the ineffectual bureaucracy as a social worker attempt to explain how a photo must be stuck on to some identity card.

So too is the slide of the alien refugees into destitution, which somehow frightens the native population more than their military potential. Many saw District 9 as being about apartheid, but according to Blomkamp, it’s making a more contemporary and more global point about immigration and refugees. In both films the authorities treat the alien immigrant/refugees as an inferior race, which is to say, the same way that apartheid used to treat what it called inferior races, as aliens.

It has feature-film production values and great CGI, and this six-minute short still punches its message home harder than most overtly social and economic morality tales.