Well I think we all saw this coming. Ever since its release back in August, Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 was accused by some critics of being racist — a charge that seems a bit odd for a movie that is so clearly commenting on Apartheid. In particular, the biggest issue was the presence of a Nigerian gang in the film, who are portrayed as both criminals and cannibals. Now that the District 9 has arrived in Nigerian theatres, the government has taken issue with this aspect of the film and requested that all screenings be halted. Information Minister Dora Akunyili had this to say:
“We are not happy about it because it portrays Nigeria in bad light… We have written to the producer and distributor of the film, Sony Entertainment, expressing our displeasure and demanded an apology. We have asked that the areas where Nigeria and Obasanjo are mentioned should be edited from the film.”
The leader of the Nigerian gang in the film is named Obesandjo, which would seem to be a reference to former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo. Some people have also felt it was inappropriate that the Nigerians are seen to practice voodoo, although in reality there are millions of people in Nigeria who subscribe to a form of this traditional African religion. Either way, Sony has not yet responded and clearly they could not remove the gang from the film entirely since they are so integral to the story. However, I suppose it’s possible that they could trim any dialogue that identifies them specifically as Nigerians. What do you think is this a reasonable request? Would it hurt the film, or is there a valid reason to make the gang Nigerian?