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What an amazing short movie. As other reviewers have stated, the movie
does manage to convey a feeling of racism not between humans but the
racism that occurs towards these squid-like aliens. It was a very real
and effective message that creates a metaphor that sometimes only
fantasy can convey.
This short has gained attention recently because the director was chosen by Peter Jackson to direct the movie adaptation of "Halo". For those of you unfamiliar with the game, this is the perfect man for the job.
For those of you looking for this movie, it can be easily found on Video.Google.Com
This impressive short takes a documentary form, but it's definitely no
Christopher Guest style mockumentary. Instead it's got aliensreally
realistic looking ones, with mech-style "bio-suits". Set in an
imaginary South Africa where aliens have landed and taken up residence,
Alive in Joburg poses as a documentary intent on examining how life has
changed for residents there, interchanging interviews with realistic
CG. The visuals are excellent and while the film's attempt to equate
the aliens reception by locals with South Africa's Apartheid era are
somewhat transparent, any attempt at social metaphor earns kudos from
The director, Neill Blomkamp, is celebrated for his advertising work, and won for himself based largely on this short I would presumethe directing gig for the new Halo film. I must say, based on this film, it looks like a truly inspired choice.
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This is an amazing short-film from a director that is just beginning his career. Neill Blomkamp blends the latest FX techniques with a keen photojournalistic style to bring a sci-fi vision of a South African future. It is the near-future and alien refuges have arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa. The short takes a news documentary approach to tell the story of the aliens struggle to integrate into apartheid like culture. It raises an interesting social commentary on a galactic scale. Neill Blomkamp has been around for a very short time. He has done a few commercial advertising spots and some short films. Perhaps his biggest up and coming film is the tapping by Microsoft to work with Peter Jackson on the film version of the incredible video game "Halo". This project will be well suited to Mr. Blomkamp's style of mixing realistic and sci-fi environments. "Halo" shares a similar theme with Alive In Joburg, they both feature an alien invasion of Africa with a military response.
It is easy to see Neill Blomkamp's directorial skills in this short film, which runs kind of like a news broadcast documentary that gives a peek into the frightening situation in a South African town after some not so pleasant aliens have set up permanent residence there. It is a kind of journalistically objective look at how the lives of the local townspeople have been altered, mostly for the worse, by the arrival of the aliens. Visually, it is a stunningly effective film, especially with the mother ships floating just over the skyline, and the film is packed with one unsettling image after another. Having been signed on by Peter Jackson to film the highly anticipated screen adaptation of the wildly popular video game Halo, it is easy to see from this film why he was chosen despite having almost no directing experience at all to take on what will surely be a hugely popular film.
Good blend of CGI and journalism type hand-cam stuff. Most of the
things we see look realistic, except the aliens themselves, since
makeup is still very expensive compared to CGI. Seeing Independence Day
style ships hover over Johannesburg was probably the coolest part.
In terms of plot feels very short and a little rushed, but nevertheless shows some promise for Neil as a special effects guy and possibly a director. The movie is an obvious jab at apartheid and the irony in humanity. Various black people who not two decades ago where themselves oppressed react with fear and suspicion towards the aliens.
It's available on the Internet, so you should check it out. It will be interesting to see what Neil can do with larger projects.
Most interesting in this film it's that, on the one hand, it's a science fiction. On the other hand, in contrast of what it happens in the majority of these films, history occurs in the past, in 90's. The director Neill Blomkamp uses a clear metaphor of racism, not only between whites and blacks, but between races in a ampler way. Using sci-fi and journalistic and documentary style, Blomkamp displays a courageous vision of the conflict between the races: if we observe intently, the great majority of that who discriminate aliens is the African people; ironically, they are those that would have to better understand the situation of aliens. The moral of Neill Blomkamp's fable is that any race can be racist, if it not have understanding. It is a beautiful film, and an appeals for compassion and peace between races.
It doesn't happen every day that an aspiring filmmaker is offered the
chance to direct a big Hollywood project on the basis of a six-minute
science fiction short. And yet that's what happened to South African
director Neill Blomkamp, whom Peter Jackson chose for the subsequently
abandoned Halo project after viewing a DVD of Alive in Joburg. It's
easy to see what caught the Lord of the Rings director's eye: few
shorts boast such ambition and originality.
Set and filmed in Johannesburg, also known as Joburg locally, the story is that of the population's encounter with an alien race. Naturally, the ETs are viewed as hostile invaders that have to be dealt with quickly and without mercy. Conflict is inevitable.
So far, so predictable. What, then, makes Alive in Joburg such an inspired achievement? The fact that most of it doesn't look like sci-fi at all, but rather newsreel footage of something more troubling than an alien invasion: racial conflict. Before the ETs are unveiled, Blomkamp's documentary approach has us believe that the interviewees are referring to human immigrants, not alien ones. Thus science fiction's ability to act as a metaphor is masterfully employed to establish parallels between a fictional close encounter and real-life ethnic struggles, with the unusual setting (for an SF story, that is) heightening the frightening sense of reality.
If one has to find a flaw in Blomkamp's gritty, hand-held examination of racism with an otherworldly twist, it would be the fact that the film is - no pun intended - too short, more premise than proper story. However, considering Blomkamp's ambitions must have been justifiably narrow at the time, such a misstep is easily forgivable, even more so with hindsight: with the Halo film shelved, the director was given a chance to expand on his original idea. And so the excellent District 9 was born...
I saw this film online tonight and had no idea what it was. However, I was was quite impressed by this short movie due not only to its excellent use of a small budget (making it look pretty professional and expensive) but by the amazing plot. In this parallel world, there was no Black Aparteid in South Africa. Instead, aliens came to Earth looking for a home and the Aparteid system was created just for them. And also on this strange "bizarro" world, Blacks and Whites have much common ground, as they agree that the aliens are no good, lazy, smelly and worthless--just like the propaganda that was spouted for so long to excuse Apartheid in the REAL South Africa until only the last couple decades. The juxtaposition was great--especially when the viewers no doubt find themselves feeling terrible pity for these alien creatures--like more of us SHOULD have been feeling about Apartheid.
I hunted this short down after watching the trailer for District 9. And you have to hand it to Blonkampp for avoiding a plot-driven mess that this movie could have made. It's interesting to set the film in South Africa as well. The many perceptions throughout Alive in Joburg creates the questions needed to ask about these aliens that are genuinely terrifying in appearance. And the open-ended finale can be finally touched upon 4 years after Blonkampp began this. Does anyone think Blonkampp has the chops to handle Halo if District 9 works out? The short and the trailer would have you think so, but honestly, let's wait for August to continue that debate.
"We don't want to be here, this place doesn't want us... we have
I feel like Neil Blomkamp has been receiving a lot of criticism lately for Elysium and Chappie, but there is no doubt in my mind that much of that has to do with how much expectations we put on him after delivering one of the better sci-fi pics of the decade, District 9. His style hasn't changed much, but of course the social commentary from that film hasn't had the same impact in his most recent films. In 2005 Blomkamp made an interesting short that would later be the basis for his feature film District 9. In Alive in Joburg he already had the social commentary of the story worked out through this documentary style film making and even had Sharlto Copley play a small role in a film he would later star in (and which would change his career). The social commentary here is just as sharp as in District 9, and Neil actually incorporated interviews of many South Africans referring to Zimbabwean refugees in real life which in the short are made to be referring to the aliens that have invaded Johannesburg. It is a clear metaphor of racism and division of social classes (referring to South Africa's Apartheid era). It's also impressive to see some of the special effects here, which look great for a film shot on such a low budget. So impressive that it caught Peter Jackson's attention at the time who wanted Neil to direct the screenplay adaptation of Halo, but the project was later shelved. I'm glad Blomkamp was given the funds to expand this small film into a full feature length movie, because it turned out to be one of the best sci-fi movies of the decade: District 9.
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