District 9, directed by Neill Blomkamp and produced by Peter Jackson, is refreshing for so many different reasons - not least the complete absence of a single American or British accent or familiar face amongst the cast. Sharlto Copley plays the lead role, Wikus van der Merwe, as a delightful anti-hero - a civillian office worker suddenly promoted beyond his ability and put in charge of an army squadron who clearly hate him. There's more than a touch of David Brent about his character and while - naturally - he learns the error of his ways through a series of ironic plot twists, his unthinking prejudice and utter cowardice is a huge part of the story.
We've also moved way beyond the sci-fi blockbuster as just a series of national monuments to be trashed (unless, that is, we happen to be Roland Emmerich) - this is a blockbuster with plenty of action, particularly as Wikus' two man army storms MNU headquarters, but also extremely strong on character, story and the striking Johannesburg location. And this film doesn't just have great special effects - it knows how to use them. The Independence-Day style mothership is a good example: rather than being the focus of the action it's beautifully composited into the background of every other shot.
District 9 made me think about persecution in general and a particularly abhorrent recurrent event in history - forced relocations of entire populations such as the Trail of Tears. While falling short of literal genocide, relocation is still a particularly dehumanizing act, both because the victims are often processed more like farm livestock than humans, and because the act tears people away from their homes, possessions and familiar places that form the foundations of a culture.