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Alive in Joburg
Alive in Joburg
Film information

Neill Blomkamp


Sharlto Copley
Simon Hansen[1]


Neill Blomkamp


Sharlto Copley
Jason Cope
Dawie Ackermann[1]

Music by

Clinton Shorter[1]


Spy Films

Release date(s)


Running time

6 minutes

Followed by

District 9

Alive in Joburg is a 2005 science fiction short film directed by Neill Blomkamp, produced by Simon Hansen and Sharlto Copley in Canada, and released by Spy Films. It runs approximately six minutes long and was filmed in Johannesburg, South Africa with soundtrack featuring composer sound designer Drazen Bosnjak's "Harmonic Code". 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, starring Copley, was inspired by this film, and expands themes and elements from this short film.

Plot and themes[]


Alive in Joburg

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


District 9 Official Trailer

According to individuals "interviewed" in the film, the aliens were captive labor (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 population.

All of the interview statements which do not explicitly mention extraterrestrials were taken from authentic interviews with South Africans who had been asked their opinions of Zimbabwean refugees.[2]

The aliens[]

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 briefly shown.

One scene early in the film, shown as television news footage, shows an alien wearing one of their mecha-suits fending off an attack by two police officers by throwing large vehicles towards them. Whether or not they themselves have a telekinetic ability or whether it is done through the use of the suit is never explained, although the alien is shown to touch a place on its suit's arm as it levitates and then throws the vehicles.


On August 14, 2009, Sony Pictures released a feature film adaptation entitled District 9 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. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Alive in Joburg Credits
  2. Woerner, Meredith. "5 Things You Didn't Know About District 9", Io9, 19 August 2009.

External links[]