A blog about movies and filmmaking.

The new hot place to make your movies

In action, drama, sci-fi on July 24, 2009 at 2:22 am

With DISTRICT 9 set to hit theaters on August 14  – and I cannot wait – there’s a continued trend I’m noticing recently (well, technically there are two involved with District – the other would be naming the movie something with the number nine in it. Including the animated movie 9, produced by Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov; NINE, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, a multitude of amazing women and directed by Rob Marshall (CHICAGO); and then the 2007 movie starring Ryan Reynolds, THE NINES.) with movies being filmed in – and about – South Africa.

Philip Noyce has had a history of political or ideological thrillers. Whether it’s his “couple sailing are tormented by a castaway they pick up” thrillers of DEAD CALM; or the foray into the espionage thrillers with Jack Ryan, PATRIOT GAMES and A CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER and then there’s the more recent movies like THE QUIET AMERICAN about America’s early mis-adventures in Vietnam. But, it’s this Australian’s movie about South African, Aparteid-era terrorism and racial prejudices, CATCH A FIRE, that I’m going to talk about tonight.

The movie stars Derek Luke (an American actor, born in New Jersey) playing a South African man, named Patrick Chamusso, struggling to keep a job at a local factory. When said factory is one day attacked, a local government agent is brought in and questions Luke’s character. After being tortured and having his wife and family put through the same rigors, Patrick eventually says that he will confess to a crime he didn’t do. While this might make the agent, played here by Tim Robbins, happy; eventually Patrick is released. The downside is, this leads him directly to signing up for a terrorist organization. There’s eventually a showdown that does lead to Chamusso, being captured and arrested. It might seem improper to give away a part of the ending like that; but the thing is, this story is true.

The real Chamusso was arrested and sentenced to 24 years in prison. He is released early because of the abolition of Apartheid and the eventual election of Nelson Mandela as President. Chamusso, who gets remarried, started an orphanage that houses over 80 kids.

There is a great commentary by Noyce, who tells some of the story about how this kind of mis-treatment of citizens, would – and still does lead to released prisoners to join the same militias that they’ve been accused of being a part of. The movie is very touching, for it’s true story and how this man saw the error of his ways and saw that he could only redeem himself by forgiving his captors – a philosophy, that seemingly was pushed by Mandela.

Second is a movie, that is fictional except for the message behind it, of the world’s acceptance and exploitation of the diamonds mined in Africa. The movie, as well as these jewels are known as a BLOOD DIAMOND. The movie, directed by Edward Zwick, stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou and Jennifer Connelly, as a trio that are trying to save a family; while also trying to find such a diamond.

The movie starts with Hounsou, telling his son that he needs to go to school and showing us that Hounsou’s character, Solomon Vandy. Vandy, who after a raid by an attack by a local militia is taken prisoner and to a river, where he is forced to mine for diamonds. He happens upon a large diamond right at the same time when the militia is attacked by the government. He manages to hide the diamond – while soon being caught by the leader, named Captain Poison. Everyone is taken to jail, where Captain Poison then screams to everyone that Vandy has a diamond and that he’ll pay to get it from him. Just so happens that along with all of these men is another, a man who was caught smuggling diamonds into Sierra Leone (where the movie takes place, even though it was filmed in South Africa – see how it fits into what I’m talking about?). This man, Danny Archer (DiCaprio), is a former member of a military group led by Arnold Vosloo’s Colonel Coetzee. HE also overhears the yelling about Solomon having a diamond, and upon his release has it set up for Vandy to also be let out of jail.

Where Connelly comes in, is as a journalist, who is trying to get a story from the perspective of the mercenaries who keep the blood diamond trade flowing. So, she continues to prod Archer, who when she learns about Vandy’s story, they set off all using one of the other to get what they want. She helps Vandy find his family; in exchange for then telling Archer where the giant pink diamond are and Archer then telling Connelly’s character – Maddy Bowen – everything he knows.

Zwick creates a wonderful and action packed story, with a conclusion that sadly only really comes in the movies. we then get a denouement that tells us about the real conflict diamond trade. Also, this is the movie that DiCaprio was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for in 2007.

Last, is the movie by actual South African filmmaker, Gavin Hood – who recently directed the not as great Summer movie, X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE – about a young thug who steals a car one day only to then find that there is a baby in the back seat. TSOTSI, the name of the movie and of the boy – played wonderfully by Presley Chweneyagae – is a tense tale of a young man who gets in over his head with gangs, a baby and of interpersonal relationships. Tsotsi is a runaway, and after spending time growing up in large concrete construction pipes, he uses some of his friends to form a small gang, that pull robberies and in one case leads to a man being murdered.

One night while out, he shoots a woman and takes her car. The woman survives and with the help of the police get word out about the baby. Quickly realizing that he’s not personally up to the task of taking care of this infant – and yet not wanting to give it up – he forces a woman from his neighborhood to help feed the baby; since she has one of her own, she must know how to do it. Eventually Tsotsi’s friends have to pull another job, and wind up back at the same house that he had shot the woman in front of. Once inside, they tie up the husband to the woman (and father of the baby) and loot the place – with Tsotsi grabbing things to help take care of the baby.

The performances are all pretty great in the movie, mostly featuring unknown actors, including the star, Presley Chweneyagae. But, also features African entertainer Zola, and actor Ian Roberts. It was also nominated for an Academy Award, for best Foreign Language Film – and won! – and led to the writer/director to more high-profile (if not more successful, see previously mentioned Summer movie) gigs, along with the “War on Terror”-themed movie, RENDITION, starring Reese Witherspoon and Jake Gyllenhaal.

DISTRICT 9, a movie by writer/director Neill Blomkamp and produced by Peter (LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy) Jackson, is about a group of alien refugees whose ship arrives floating over Johannesburg, South Africa. The aliens are then corralled into a ghetto of sorts – called District 9 – is sort of an allegory for Apartheid-era of the country. It’s based off a short that Blomkamp had made, previously.

I can’t wait to see it.

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