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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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John Paul II: “Open wide the doors to Christ,” urged John Paul II during the homily at the Mass when he was installed as pope in 1978. <br /><br />Born in Wadowice, Poland, Karol Jozef Wojtyla had lost his mother, father and older brother before his 21st birthday. Karol’s promising academic career at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. While working in a quarry and a chemical factory, he enrolled in an “underground” seminary in Kraków. Ordained in 1946, he was immediately sent to Rome where he earned a doctorate in theology. <br /><br />Back in Poland, a short assignment as assistant pastor in a rural parish preceded his very fruitful chaplaincy for university students. Soon he earned a doctorate in philosophy and began teaching that subject at Poland’s University of Lublin. <br /><br />Communist officials allowed him to be appointed auxiliary bishop of Kraków in 1958, considering him a relatively harmless intellectual. They could not have been more wrong! <br /><br />He attended all four sessions of Vatican II and contributed especially to its <em>Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World</em>. Appointed as archbishop of Kraków in 1964, he was named a cardinal three years later. <br /><br />Elected pope in October 1978, he took the name of his short-lived, immediate predecessor. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In time, he made pastoral visits to 124 countries, including several with small Christian populations. <br /><br />He promoted ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, especially the 1986 Day of Prayer for World Peace in Assisi. He visited Rome’s Main Synagogue and the Western Wall in Jerusalem; he also established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel. He improved Catholic-Muslim relations and in 2001 visited a mosque in Damascus, Syria. <br /><br />The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a key event in John Paul’s ministry, was marked by special celebrations in Rome and elsewhere for Catholics and other Christians. Relations with the Orthodox Churches improved considerably during his ministry as pope. <br /><br />“Christ is the center of the universe and of human history” was the opening line of his 1979 encyclical, <em>Redeemer of the Human Race</em>. In 1995, he described himself to the United Nations General Assembly as “a witness to hope.” <br /><br />His 1979 visit to Poland encouraged the growth of the Solidarity movement there and the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe 10 years later. He began World Youth Day and traveled to several countries for those celebrations. He very much wanted to visit China and the Soviet Union but the governments in those countries prevented that. <br /><br />One of the most well-remembered photos of his pontificate was his one-on-one conversation in 1983 with Mehmet Ali Agca, who had attempted to assassinate him two years earlier. <br /><br />In his 27 years of papal ministry, John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals and five books, canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,338 people. <br /><br />In the last years of his life, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was forced to cut back on some of his activities. <br /><br />Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Paul II in 2011, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014. American Catholic Blog Lord, may I have balance and measure in everything—except in Love. —St. Josemaría Escrivá

 
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