Neil Blomkamp’s District 9, about aliens in South Africa treated to an apartheid-esque system of segregation and disenfranchisement, portrays marginal Nigerians as “Oz-style hoo-doo gangsters” and cannibals. Reviewing it last month, I wrote “if I were Nigerian, I’d be all like, What the fuck?”
Now the Nigerian government is all like, What the fuck?
After a private screening last week for government officials, the Nigerian minister of information has asked theaters to stop screening the film. (“Ask” might be a polite euphemism; the BBC reports the film and video censors’ board has been ordered to confiscate the movie.) She’s also asking for an apology and for references to Nigeria to be edited out—especially negative references to the former president, Olusegun Obasanjo.
The censorship crosses a line that sadly serves only to reinforce prejudicial views of Nigerians as backwards anti-democrats. Still, Nigerians have good cause to protest, and it’s difficult to defend the general racism that pervades District 9. The actor who plays the Nigerian gang leader tried to offer an apologia to the BBC. “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.”