The spacecraft hangs above Johannesburg, like a relic from Star Wars that couldn't find the parking dock. It manages to look both otherworldly and scruffy, battered, rusting. Unplugged cables dangle down like weeds. It isn't going anywhere, it can't go anywhere. No one in the movie is very interested in the spacecraft, it just hovers like persistent bad weather. It represents a forgotten advanced technology no one wants to connect with the ship's former passengers: a population of two and a half million aliens, tall, agile skeletal types with all kinds of snakes and slugs as part of the constitution of their faces. I believe the intertextual source here is Pirates of the Caribbean, with a touch of the generic medical school anatomy class. The government has set up a camp for them, looking remarkably like an old township, but now wants to move them on, to shift them to some remoter spot where they will not annoy the locals and release so much repellent inter-species racism among the recent victims of racism's other forms. This is a good liberal country where everyone has rights, including the right to pretend you're recognising everyone's rights when you're not.
LRB 8 October 2009 | PDF Download