Alive In Joburg
A Short-Film Review

United States of Americaby Jase Luttrell
Posted: 1 September Comments View Comments is taking a step away from reality to explore the alternate, alien-filled world of Neill Blomkamp's Alive In Joburg, the short film shot in 2005 that forms the basis for this year's blockbuster film District 9. Hopefully, if you can see past the poncho-wearing, grotesque aliens and the abundant anachronisms of the short, you will enjoy the splendid squalor of stranded aliens. Or something.

Alive In JoburgAlive In Joburg, completed in 2005, is a short film, the basis of which forms the blockbuster hit District 9. As a short film Alive In Joburg creates a compelling alternate reality though it is not a stand-alone production. It is clear that director Neill Blomkamp may have had big plans for this science-fiction interpretation of South Africa's apartheid history and some of his creative ideas remained intact for the feature film, although a number of his ideas were eliminated.

The short film is shot in a documentary style, set in 1990 (during apartheid), with interviews of locals regarding their opinions of the aliens interspersed with footage of the aliens trying to survive on the streets, mingling with humans, as it's before they were placed in the township called District 9. The short film is shot using hand-held cameras, which emphasises the documentary-style feel, and accentuates the realness of the scenario. A number of the shots are taken from helicopters, depicting the ships in the distance, as well as some of the encounters with the aliens.

Alive In JoburgWhat many viewers may not realise is that a number of the interview snippets in which the interviewees make references to "them" were actual interviews that were conducted with real people, not actors, except the interviewees were asked about their opinions of Zimbabweans (considered "aliens") rather than science-fiction aliens. This is a creative use of actual footage and an interesting display of "creating the other", a philosophical and sociological concept regarding racial hierarchies and classifications. The use of this footage is inventive, to say the least.

Familiar faces from District 9 also play roles in this short film, including Sharlto Copley, Wikus van de Merwe in the feature film, who served as the producer for Alive In Joburg and plays an unnamed sniper commenting on the size of the ships hovering over the Johannesburg airspace. The film also (apparently, acccording to IMDb) features Jason Cope, District 9's UKNR Chief Correspondent Grey Bradnam and the voice of Christopher Johnson, who served as the production and location manager on the short film.

Alive In Joburg: Sharlto CopleyThe aliens look different from the District 9 feature film, mostly in stature (they are smaller), they wear clothing, and they have more tentacles coming from their mouths. Nearly all are completely covered, including their heads (presumably, this was to save costs on costuming full aliens). Their language is different: it is full of sibilant, fricative noises and the translations differ in syntactic structure; their phrasings in District 9 are similar to English phrasing, whereas in Alive In Joburg the language includes innovative clause structures, such as "the place here we cannot adapt / give us running water that we may hydrate".

The music, created by Drazen Bosnjak of Q Department, is mainly subdued, and begins as an ethereal soundscape. As the tension in the film grows the musical elements escalate accordingly, featuring tribal drumming to accentuate the rising tension and conflict in the film. During some key moments the music is absent, which creates a hollow, other-worldly experience as the viewer hears and sees the aliens up close for the first time.

Alive In Joburg: Ponte City ApartmentsAlive In Joburg provides a short description of the aliens' arrival, their being stranded on Earth, and their backgrounds. The majority of these descriptions remain in the feature film, though there are some significant differences. Overall, the ship in District 9 is drastically different, and there is only one ship, as opposed to the multiple ships portrayed in Alive In Joburg. Furthermore, in the short film it appears as though the aliens have access to their ships, as there are extensive networks of cables and pipes that run from power stations, private residences, and water sources towards the ships. This element, removed from District 9, is fascinating, because it exacerbates the tension between the aliens and humans, as the aliens are openly draining the human society of its resources. Finally, since the District 9 township doesn't yet exist, Alive In Joburg portrays the aliens as interacting (and ultimately interfering) with the day-to-day activities of human life.

Ultimately, Alive In Joburg is a great introduction to the reality Neill Blomkamp created in District 9. Viewing the short film expands on and develops some of the ideas and concepts that were glossed over in District 9, which provides some extra insight for fans curious to see where the origins of the feature film lie.

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Streaming Video Spy Films: Alive In Joburg [ Streaming Flash Video (49.4 MB); 480x360 ] Opinion
Rating: 8/10
In One Word: Imaginative

Key Facts: Alive In Joburg
Year: 2005
Running Time: 06:26
Genres: Drama, Science Fiction
    Director: Neill Blomkamp
      Dawie Ackermann ... Afrikaans Professor
      Jason Cope ... UN Official / Alien
      Sharlto Copley ... Sniper
      Braam Greyling ... Cop 1
      Godfrey Seome ... Cop 2
      Sharlto Copley ... producer
      Simon Hansen ... producer
      Robin Hays ... co-producer
      Kirk Karasin ... co-producer
      Carlo Trulli ... executive producer
      Shannon Worley ... co-producer
    Original Music: Drazen Bosnjak (co-composer), Clinton Shorter
    Casting: Laura Stewart
    Makeup Designer: Alien: Willard Cochrane
    Sound Designer: Francois Lafleur
      [ full credits ]

On The Internet
Official Site: Spy Films
Other Sites: IMDb | Wikipedia

Elsewhere On
Marketing District 9: The Real World Campaign The marketing campaign for District 9 was one of the most extensive ever seen... if you lived pretty much anywhere but in Africa, where it didn't exist. Simultaneous campaigns were run in the real world, using traditional marketing techniques that included billboards and posters, and online, using social-neworking sites and web sites. This article focusses on the real-world campaign, most notably as was seen in key cities in the US in the run-up to the movie's release.
By: Mandy J Watson  |  Posted: 18 September 2009  |  View Comments
Category: Screen > Film > Features

District 9 - ZA Perspective District 9, aliens and all, is an intrinsically South African tale but with themes distilled for international audiences. In this, the second of's District 9 reviews, we present a South African perspective of what has become a global phenomenon. We encourage you to compare it to our previous review, written from an American perspective, and then let us know your thoughts in the comments.
By: Mandy J Watson  |  Posted: 10 September 2009  |  View Comments
Category: Screen > Film > Reviews

District 9 - US Perspective
Review: District 9 - A Perspective From America
It's very difficult not to have an opinion about District 9 so we thought we'd write two, independently, from different sides of the globe. In this review we feature the perspective from a member of the audience for which the movie was created, America, although other nationalities are certainly welcome to read it and are encouraged to comment (though they are also kindly asked to accept that the inadequacies of the film are an attempt to appeal to American audiences).
By: Jase Luttrell  |  Posted: 10 September 2009  |  View Comments
Category: Screen > Film > Reviews Comments Speak Your Mind
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