'We feel very bad about this because the film clearly denigrated Nigeria's image by portraying us as if we are cannibals, we are criminals,' explains Nigeria's Information Minister on the reason why.
"District 9" has become one of 2009 summer hit movies, but it wasn't without any controversy. On Saturday, September 19, Nigeria's Information Minister Dora Akunyili told the BBC's Network Africa programme that the sci-fi movie is not welcomed in the country and that she had ordered the Nigerian film and video censors' board to ask all cinemas to stop showing it.
On the reason why, Akunyili explained, "We feel very bad about this because the film clearly denigrated Nigeria's image by portraying us as if we are cannibals, we are criminals." She was referring to the scene where Eugene Khumbanyiwa's main gangster character, Obesandjo, tries to cut off and eat the arm of the film's protagonist in an attempt to gain his supernatural powers, among others.
The minister also mentioned that the name of the major baddie is very similar to that of former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo. "The name our former president was clearly spelt out as the head of the criminal gang and our ladies shown like prostitutes sleeping with extra-terrestrial beings," she added.
In addition to demanding the censors' board to confiscate the movie, Akunyili stated that she has appealed to Sony for an apology and the renaming of the Nigerian antagonists. "I have also formally written to Sony Pictures Entertainment, the company that produced this film, demanding an unconditional apology for this unwarranted attack on Nigeria's image," she claimed.
When contacted about the matter, Corlize Luttig, the marketing manager for the South African cinema chain Ster-Kinekor, who represent Sony in South Africa, stated that they were still waiting for comment from Sony's head office in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Nigerian actor Khumbanyiwa suggested that the movie should not be taken too literally. "It's a story, you know," he said. "It's not like Nigerians do eat aliens. Aliens don't even exist in the first place."
Based on short film "Alive in Joburg", "District 9" revolves around aliens that come to the Earth as refugees. Instead of finding a place to regenerate, the extraterrestrial race are forced to live in slum-like conditions in a makeshift home in South Africa's District 9. Called the 'Non-Humans', they now have to work for Multi National United company (MNU).
As tension between the aliens and the humans builds up, Wikus van der Merwe contracts a mysterious virus that begins changing his DNA. Wikus quickly becomes the most hunted man in the world, as well as the most valuable, for he is the key to unlock the secrets of alien technology. Since its release on August 14, the movie has collected $111.6 million in the U.S. only and nearly $126 million worldwide.