The seasons are changing and here in south east Queensland it is noticeable in the shorter days and cooler nights. Last night we had the ceiling fan on I instead of II while we were watching TV. It is as if someone turned the page on the calendar from February to March and Poof! the intensity of the tropical summer was swept away.
I watched a couple of movies over the weekend that I found rather thought-provoking. One was “District 9“, a sci-fi story set not in the USA, for a change, but in Johannesburg, South Africa.
What the aliens were thinking heading down there is anyone’s guess but it probably wasn’t their brightest plan ever. When creatures from outer space enter US air space, they normally do a pretty good job of taking over the world and cause a sizeable amount of destruction before the Marines step in and blow them to smithereens. However, the South Africans do things a little differently, flinging the visitors into a slum in a ‘naughty alien, do as you’re told‘ sort of way right from the start.
I thought the movie was quite brilliant. The casting was spot-on and the acting was utterly convincing. It was refreshing to see South African characters played by locals instead of by Americans, who tend to fail dismally at capturing the South Africanisms no matter how hard they try. There was plenty of action and the unlikely hero of the story is entirely believable (under the extraordinary circumstances!)
I think what hit me in the gut, though was that despite the aliens looking like giant prawns many of the scenes were a little too familiar for comfort. There’s nothing like a little metaphor in a movie to make people squirm in their seats. As someone who grew up in South Africa in the 1980’s I found the first part of the movie was a disturbing reminder of some turbulent times in my country. I am sure this is no accident.
After watching the extra-terrestrial devastation in the country of my birth for a couple of hours I then went on to watch “Crossing Over“. This is a movie about a handful of immigrants in America, trying to become citizens or at least become legal residents. I found I had a lot of sympathy for these people. It took me 2 1/2 years of paperwork to be allowed to live in Australia, not to mention the emotional journey involved. Sometimes people forget that the term “immigrants” includes not only those fleeing from poverty and violence in war-torn or third-world countries. There are plenty of “normal” and educated people like myself who fall under this umbrella. (I will ignore, for now, the rather flimsy difference between the war-torn third-world countries and South Africa. Perhaps another day…!)
We, too, have uprooted from our homes and families in search of a new life and whether it is the USA, Australia, Canada – anywhere, in fact, we all face the same obstacles in being allowed to live our lives in peace in our adopted countries.
Somewhere deep in my head I sense these two films have something in common. It has been gnawing at the back of my mind.
Perhaps it is that both tell the stories of people (or prawns, as the case may be) far from home and at the mercy of the rulers of their new environment.
It is all too easy to judge someone who is an outsider. The instinct is to view anyone who is not like us as a threat.
But you know… sometimes they really do come in peace.