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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

District 9

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Sharlto Copley stars in a scene from the movie "District 9."
"District 9" (TriStar) is an exceedingly violent yet powerful science fiction parable about the dangers of prejudice and societal indifference.
 
Set in an alternate version of contemporary South Africa two decades after the arrival in Johannesburg of an unwelcome race of human-size but insect-shaped aliens, director and co-writer (with Terri Tatchell) Neill Blomkamp's unflinchingly harsh feature debut has specific applications to the country of his birth—he now lives in Canada—but far broader implications about human nature in general.
 
As we learn from a series of mock-documentary broadcasts and interviews, the extraterrestrials, stranded on earth by a mechanical problem with their spacecraft, quickly became a source of social tension since—besides being repulsive by human standards—the "prawns," as they come to be called derisively, are perceived as unintelligent and feckless.
 
So they've been forcibly confined in the titular ghetto where makeshift shanties and lawless streets recall the townships of the apartheid era.
 
Bowing to public pressure to isolate the visitors even further, the government charges a conglomerate called Multi-National United with the task of relocating them to a vast concentration camp. Thanks to family connections, Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley), a timid, irksome MNU bureaucrat, is placed at the head of this operation. The only likable thing about Wikus is his idealistic love for his wife, Tania (Vanessa Haywood).
 
Backed by MNU's paramilitary forces, Wikus begins to carry out the technically legal evictions with a dismal combination of condescension and ruthlessness. But an accident with an unidentified chemical he finds in one of the shacks suddenly turns him into a fugitive from the system he previously served.
 
While on the run, Wikus, whose experiences as an outcast gradually transform his thinking, allies himself with an alien who has been given the human name Christopher Johnson (voice of Jason Cope).
 
Besides segregation and colonialism—the assignment of virtually interchangeable names to the aliens conjures up what it must have been like for native people to receive unwanted names in their conquerors' language—the drama can also be seen as a critique of the more recent problem of South African xenophobia toward migrant workers from other parts of the continent.
 
Scenes of the eventual showdown between some of the aliens and their human oppressors are so graphically bloody that they would normally warrant an "O" classification, especially in conjunction with the constant use of the F-word throughout the dialogue.
 
But for all its grittiness, this tale of physical and moral metamorphosis—propelled by Copley's intense performance—offers an incisive study of the need for universal solidarity and a portrait of marital love that at least some adult viewers may find valuable.
 
The film contains considerable gory violence, including brief torture, pervasive rough and some crude language, and a few sexual references. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted: under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
 
- - -
 
Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.


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Anthony Grassi: Anthony’s father died when his son was only 10 years old, but the young lad inherited his father’s devotion to Our Lady of Loreto. As a schoolboy he frequented the local church of the Oratorian Fathers, joining the religious order when he was 17.
<p>Already a fine student, he soon gained a reputation in his religious community as a "walking dictionary" who quickly grasped Scripture and theology. For some time he was tormented by scruples, but they reportedly left him at the very hour he celebrated his first Mass. From that day, serenity penetrated his very being.
</p><p>In 1621, at age 29, Anthony was struck by lightning while praying in the church of the Holy House at Loreto. He was carried paralyzed from the church, expecting to die. When he recovered in a few days he realized that he had been cured of acute indigestion. His scorched clothes were donated to the Loreto church as an offering of thanks for his new gift of life.
</p><p>More important, Anthony now felt that his life belonged entirely to God. Each year thereafter he made a pilgrimage to Loreto to express his thanks.
</p><p>He also began hearing confessions, and came to be regarded as an outstanding confessor. Simple and direct, he listened carefully to penitents, said a few words and gave a penance and absolution, frequently drawing on his gift of reading consciences.
</p><p>In 1635 he was elected superior of the Fermo Oratory. He was so well regarded that he was reelected every three years until his death. He was a quiet person and a gentle superior who did not know how to be severe. At the same time he kept the Oratorian constitutions literally, encouraging the community to do likewise.
</p><p>He refused social or civic commitments and instead would go out day or night to visit the sick or dying or anyone else needing his services. As he grew older, he had a God-given awareness of the future, a gift which he frequently used to warn or to console.
</p><p>But age brought its challenges as well. He suffered the humility of having to give up his physical faculties one by one. First was his preaching, necessitated after he lost his teeth. Then he could no longer hear confessions. Finally, after a fall, he was confined to his room. The archbishop himself came each day to give him holy Communion. One of Anthony’s final acts was to reconcile two fiercely quarreling brothers.</p> American Catholic Blog God of love, as I come to the end of this Advent season, my heart is ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus. I join with Mary in saying, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Nothing is impossible with you, O God.

 
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