Since South Africa is being on the spotlight lately, ÉCU’s Spotlight this week is dedicated to a South African artist of international acclaim. And the artist in question is director Neill Blomkamp. Maybe his name doesn’t sound familiar but his work might, Blomkamp is the artist responsible behind the hit film District 9 and the 2013 Elysium amongst other projects.
Neill Blomkamp started his career as a special effects artist. His live-action directorial debut came with three films collectively called Landfall set in the universe of the popular video game Halo. The films were used for the promotion of the video game’s third
installment. On his off time Blomkamp would direct short films that would establish his unique directorial style of mixing lo-fi production with the impeccable use of CGI. Amongst those film were: Alive in Joburg, a bleak docu-fiction about extraterrestrials marooned in Johannesburg,Tempblot, a parody-spoof reminiscing of the 90s cult movie Office Space and Yellow, a short based on the color yellow for the Adidas campaign Adicolor portraying a globe-trotting android gone rogue. Those films caught Peter Jackson’s attention who decided to produce Blomkamp’s first feature which was supposed to be a film based on the Halo game. However this plan fell through and the director’s first feature would be District 9 based on his short film Alive in Joburg. District 9 was the film that would introduce Blomkamp to a larger audience and at the same time would make the director one of the new directors to watch. The film would be nominated for four Oscars and the prestigious Best Film award in the 2009 Academy Awards and its director would make the Time’s magazine 100 most influential people.
The film is an independent science fiction action thriller set in 1982 when an alien spaceship stops above Johannesburg. The South African government decides to retain the malnourished sickly aliens in an area called District 9. The film deals with themes such as xenophobia, social segregation and humanity. It was praised for its deep exploration of the human nature and social commentary on racism and corruption in government through a sci-fi story as well as the original directorial style of Blomkamp. The film stars the director’s childhood friend from South Africa, Sharlto Copley who would also star in his next big film Elysium.
Through his vision and talent Neill Blomkamp revitalized in a way the science fiction genre leading it away from frothy scripts and showing the way of how a sci-fi story can really speak about humanity and at the same time deliver an exciting visual experience that would satisfy even the most demanding Trekkie. And doing all that by using his native country as background as well as local talent to work on his film defying the popular notion that for a sci-fi film to be successful aliens must only land in the States!
If you have Steven King books on your mantel piece and swear by the Jedi code of honor it’s time to embark on your own adventure and shoot your own vision of how aliens should look like and where they should land next, as Neil Blomkamp did, and then of course submit it to ÉCU Film Festival so it can take off!