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District 9 Director Neill Blomkamp on the Intergalactic Delicacy Known as Cat Food

District 9 Director Neill Blomkamp on the Intergalactic Delicacy Known as Cat Food” width=”560″/>

First-time filmmaker Neill Blomkamp discusses his Peter Jackson-produced debut, District 9, and explains how scifi and apartheid seeped their way into the DNA of the picture.

Q: The short on which District 9 is based, “Alive in Joburg“, was shot as a mockumentary. At what point did you realize the movie would have to diverge from that?

A: The idea was definitely conceived to be something that would include some live footage. Before I started shooting I knew that. But I think the difference is that it has more cinematic footage than I expected. The amount of cinematic footage became more necessary in the second half of the film. At some point you have to break it. And even in the editing room, I was trying to do that in the most unabrasive sort of way. But ultimately it’s still going to be something the audience is going to notice. You’re going to go from being aware you’re watching news — kind of a weird way to see science fiction — to all of a sudden a situation where no camera could be there. I knew that would happen, but you can’t get around it.

Q: You and Peter Jackson previously worked on adapting Halo, which fell through. Did any elements of that work make their way into District 9?

A: No — maybe there are some subconscious things. But consciously I wanted nothing to do with Halo in the film. It’s its own film.

Q: But there are some elements of the movie that feel very much like a video game.

A: Again, I think a lot of that is subconscious. For me, it’s a case of one side of my brain that’s filled with video games and science fiction and all of the pure geekery of it — the weaponry and the ships and all of that stuff. Somehow it works its way into what you’re doing — it’s sort of inescapable. And then the other side of my brain is like wanting to include South Africa and wanting to include metaphors and allegories, and then they meet. So there’s definitely no one movie or one video game that I can look at and point to and go that’s directly this. But I can definitely say that it’s meant to be a blended amount of all the science fiction I like.

Q: Setting the movie in segregated South Africa is bound to draw apartheid metaphors. But the movie itself seems much less blatant about that point.

A: What I knew right away at the beginning, after going a little bit in the wrong direction, was that I needed to make a Hollywood film. I’m not a mature enough filmmaker to go off and make some really serious film. I could do that, but it may fail. And I don’t even want to be doing that — I want to be doing Hollywood films. But I want the Hollywood films that I’m doing to have topics, the serious topics that interest me woven into the DNA of the film. And District 9 I think is a very good example of that. In the foreground is the story that I wanted to tell, and then in the background, the story can only exist within the segregated apartheid South Africa.

Q: The aliens in your movie, Prawns, are addicted to canned cat food. Where did that idea come from?

A: In South Africa you see a lot of people carrying around cheesy puffs, like this cheap one-dollar bag that’s so big they carry it on their shoulder — and that’s like the delicacy for impoverished areas. Because I picked a lot of stimuli from Jo’burg, I wanted the aliens to have something like that. So [co-writer] Terri [Tatchell] said why not use cat food? We’d already come up with the name Prawn, and when she used to go prawning in Vancouver they’d bait the f—–g thing with cat food. [Laughs]

Q: Next you’re hoping to make a scifi movie set on another planet. Do you think you’ll stay in the scifi genre in you career?

A: I think horror really interests me — from horror to science fiction to action is where I want to be. I’d be totally happy within there. There are films like Black Hawk Down and certain war films I suppose that really interest me. Then I’ve got a comedy I want to do that’s just totally, ridiculously out there. It has everything — scifi, comedy, it’s insane. If it ever gets made, I hope it gets made, it’s just f—–d. So I want to do this scifi film now, but that comedy is right up at the top too.

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