Alive in Joburg

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Alive in Joburg
Alive in Joburg.jpg
Directed byNeill Blomkamp
Produced bySharlto Copley
Simon Hansen
Written byNeill Blomkamp
StarringSharlto Copley
Jason Cope
Dawie Ackermann
Music byClinton Shorter
Dražen Bošnjak
CinematographyTrevor Cawood
Ozan Biron
Spy Films
Distributed bySpy Films
Release date
  • September 6, 2006 (2006-09-06) (L'Étrange Festival)
Running time
5 minutes
South Africa

Alive in Joburg is a 2006 Canadian-South African science fiction mockumentary short film written and directed by Neill Blomkamp and starring Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, and Dawie Ackermann. The film explores themes of apartheid and is noted for its visual effects as well as its documentary-style imagery. Blomkamp's 2009 feature film District 9, again starring Copley and Cope, expands themes and elements from this short film.

Plot and themes[edit]

In 1990, Johannesburg is home to a number of extraterrestrial refugees, whose large spaceships (estimated to be nearly one kilometre in length) can be seen hovering above the city. When the visitors first arrived, the human population was enamored with, among other aspects, the aliens' advanced "bio-suits", and welcomed them with open arms. However, the aliens later began moving into other areas of the city, committing crimes in order to survive and frequently clashing with police. Playing as a documentary, the film continues with interviews and footage taken from handheld cameras, which highlight the growing tension between Earth's civilian population and the extraterrestrial visitors.

According to individuals "interviewed" in the film, the aliens were captive labour (slaves or indentured servants), forced to live in "conditions that were not good" and had escaped to Earth. Because the film takes place in 1990, while apartheid was still in effect in South Africa, the aliens were forced to live amongst the already-oppressed black population, causing conflict with them as well as the non-white and white populations.

All of the interview statements which do not explicitly mention extraterrestrials were taken from authentic interviews with many South Africans who had been asked their opinions of Zimbabwean refugees.[1]

The aliens[edit]

The alien species in Alive in Joburg are never named, speak in an undefined language, and are frequently referred to simply as "them" or "the aliens". One citizen referred to them as "the poleepkwa". In their biosuits, they resembled bipedal, humanoid robots. Outside of their suits, their most obvious non-human features are a lack of hair and ears, and protruding tentacles where a human's mouth would be. In the film, the area where one would expect eyes to be is pixelated, though in a later scene an alien with unpixelated eyes is shown.

One scene early in the film, shown as television news footage, shows an alien wearing a mecha-suit fending off an attack by two police officers by throwing vehicles at them.


After shooting Alive in Joburg, Neill Blomkamp was hired to direct a coming movie based on the Halo video game, produced by Peter Jackson. The movie was never produced, but Blomkamp managed to convince Jackson to produce a movie based on some plot ideas he had. This movie became District 9, and incorporated some ideas from Alive in Joburg. It was released on August 14, 2009 by Sony Pictures, directed by Neill Blomkamp with executive production by Peter Jackson, and featuring Sharlto Copley and Jason Cope, who also were involved in Alive in Joburg. District 9 was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.


  1. ^ Woerner, Meredith. "5 Things You Didn't Know About District 9", Io9, 19 August 2009.

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