Alive in Joberg

Close encounter with Aliens who have landed in SA.
by Neill Blomkamp
6 Min / Canada



Alive in Joburg is a short film that lead to District 9. And even if you have seen District 9, this short film is worth watching for its unique treatment of subject.

Till this point, alien movies followed a certain template where there were expectations of the earthlings, which was (ususally) met with hostility and all alien presence (defined by large massive infallible space ships) always led to some sort of doomsday scenario (which was ususally prevented by timely heroism of ann american soldier who wants his kid to look upto him ).

Alive in Joburg challenges that form and poses as a documentary, intent on examining how life has changed for residents in Joberg where the aliens have crash landed. To begin with, the director sets the fim in South Africa in 1990s, in a video era, and the aliens have been around for presumably 2.5 years. It intercuts interviews of locals and an expert social commentator with realistic CG. The aliens look less sophisticated and ridden with the same challenges of survival as humans. Aerial shots, tin houses, aliens in blankets in refugee camp setup - all hint at a crumbling relationship between humans and aliens.

Some of the visual details are excellent - a wandering chicken walking past humans, followed by few wandering aliens walking past non-chalant locals who are presumably accustomed to their presence, kids teasing aliens, and extremely realistic fights and stand offs between some aliens (the rebels) and humans. The various reactions of local has hints of irritation and rage. They talk to TV channel like a child complaining about a rogue student who is less inferior and is yet challenging and posing some discomfort ("They make noises at night", "They climb the train"). We realize that as humans there is a huge reluctance in sharing basic resources like water and all that very subtly hints at the complex relationship we have with other sentient beings. "We own the earth and we won't share it."

The film tries to mildly equate alien's reception by locals with South Africa’s apartheid era and the point of view of aliens (who are stuck on earth with their spaceship covered in mist and dirt) is shown effectively with them feeling like guests who have overstayed their welcome. Small tidbits like the meat shop is an excellent way of illustrating the unfamiliar territory by some intelligent production design.

All in all - a must watch - Alive in Joberg's winning streak lies in the fact that it makes a lovely comment on our complex relationship with other species.