The new movie Elysium, another science-fiction fable from young Boer refugee Neill Blomkamp about the horrors of mass immigration and nonwhite overpopulation, isn’t terribly amusing to watch. But at the meta level, the career of Blomkamp, whose mother dragged the family off from Johannesburg to Vancouver after a 17-year-old friend was shot dead by black carjackers, is one of the funnier pranks played on the American culturati’s hive mind in recent decades.
I’ve read over a hundred reviews of Blomkamp’s two movies, and virtually no critic has noticed that he does not share their worldview.
Not at all.
Blomkamp’s 2009 Best Picture-nominated District 9, in which the black residents of his native Johannesburg demand that their black-run government clear out millions of feckless illegal space aliens, was universally praised by American critics as an apartheid allegory. Yet Blomkamp has relentlessly insisted in interviews that it’s really about “the collapse of Zimbabwe and the flood of illegal immigrants into South Africa, and then how you have impoverished black South Africans in conflict with the immigrants.”
Similarly, Elysium is another Malthusian tale about open borders, set in a dystopian 2154. By then, Los Angeles has been completely overrun by Mexicans, who have turned it into an endless, dusty slum that looks remarkably like urban Mexico today. (Blomkamp filmed for four months in Mexico City.)
The auteur explains that he is:
…painting this realistic image of a future Earth…which meant the borders being erased entirely and having this fluid population group that basically moves from Chile all the way up to Canada. It just flows, because it can.…The numbers of people that are Latin are going to overwhelm the numbers of people that aren’t.
The rich, continuing to get richer from the collapse of the borders, have decamped for a gated community in the sky, recreating Beverly Hills in a delicate space station that rotates gently to produce gravity along its inner rim.
Blomkamp, a gun-loving Afrikaner whose movies are based around his fear that the rapid breeding of Third Worlders threatens to bring down civilization, says Elysium originated in a disastrous visit to Mexico in 2005. While shooting a Nike commercial in lovely San Diego, the Boer crossed the border one evening to see Tijuana, where he was abducted by corrupt Mexican cops who shook him down for $900 in return for not killing him.
Despite the obviousness of Blomkamp’s parable about Mexican immigration’s catastrophic effects, Elysium has been universally interpreted as preaching the need for amnesty, open borders, and Obamacare.
For example, the most informative article on Elysium is a publicity piece in Wired, whose author still misses where Blomkamp is coming from. The director explains:
“The dice are going to be rolled, and either we’re going to end up coming out of this through technological innovation”—leaps in genetic engineering, say, or artificial intelligence—“or we’re going to go down the road of a Malthusian catastrophe.”…He holds forth on just a few of the topics that engross him: overpopulation, pathogens, nukes; how America’s hegemony is slowly eroding en route to a “third world deathbed.”
“Third world deathbed”? Whoa!
But Blomkamp insists Elysium isn’t some sort of filmic Paul Krugman op-ed piece.
Right. It’s a lot more a filmic Pat Buchanan op-ed piece.
If Blomkamp’s message is “socialist,” as various conservative sites have complained, it’s in the Afrikaner sense that the old apartheid state offered “Fascism for the blacks, capitalism for the English and Jews, and socialism for the Boers.”
In Elysium, Matt Damon plays Max, the last Anglo in LA. (The character’s name is presumably a tribute to Mel Gibson’s most famous role.) Gangsters recruit Max as the only man competent and motivated enough to infiltrate Elysium (which looks oddly like Damon’s mansions in Miami and Pacific Palisades) and take down its power structure.
The 42-year-old Damon, while appearing impressively ‘roided up, is dull in a role that Arnold Schwarzenegger would have knocked out of the park in the 1980s. Damon, a Howard Zinn fan, seems lost in a world he can’t begin to understand.
Elysium would have been more interesting with either of Blomkamp’s two earlier choices for the lead role, white rappers from black-ruled places: Detroit’s Eminem and Ninja of Die Antwoord, a satirical Afrikaner duo who are always on the verge of getting denounced as racist.
(Here’s Die Antwoord’s recent video in which a Lady Gaga impersonator visiting South Africa gives birth to a baby prawn from District 9. Blomkamp is now working on a comedy with Die Antwoord and is also planning a mysterious fourth movie which he warns is likely to get him banned from Hollywood.)
Up in space, French-speaking Jodie Foster (who, along with Robert Downey, Jr., remains Gibson’s loyal friend) is the muscle behind the weak liberal President Patel, a childless, perhaps homosexual politician who flinches at the tough-minded Foster’s insistence upon blowing up illegal infiltrators to preserve Elysium for her children.
Back in 2009, I reviewed District 9 for Taki’s Mag and remarked upon Blomkamp’s sardonic Boer pride:
The message seems to be: Okay, we Afrikaners are dumb and evil, just like everybody says, but we do make conscientious bureaucrats and hellacious mercenaries.
Thus, in Elysium, Blomkamp’s best friend from his Johannesburg days, Sharlto Copley, who played the bureaucrat in District 9, now portrays a Mad Max-worthy “military contractor.” He’s a South African mercenary inexplicably based in Los Angeles, where Foster employs him to shoot down the coyotes’ space shuttles.
Blomkamp’s debt to George Miller’s Mad Max movies is even clearer than in District 9: Copley looks like a character from Road Warrior, and his accent is even less comprehensible. As Kruger (a reference to Oom Paul Kruger of Boer War fame), Copley turns in the movie’s best performance, although that may be because his working class Zef dialect is so incomprehensible that you can’t understand Blomkamp’s unwieldy dialogue. (In contrast, Foster, with her clear diction, is being widely criticized.)
Elysium is a pretty good movie, but the Boer’s understanding of Mexicans falls short of the Catholic Gibson’s in movies such as Apocalypto and Get the Gringo.
Blomkamp is the most glaring example since the primes of Gibson and John Milius of the overlooked fact that the creative guys who make big-budget movies aren’t necessarily on the same page politically as the nice liberal dweebs who write about them.
When I was in college, Apocalypse Now was being sold as the ultimate antiwar film. Yet it was actually beloved by the jocks and ROTC cadets in my dorm, who came back from it humming Wagner and shouting, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning!” Meanwhile, my more cultured friends seemed perturbed by it.
When I finally saw Apocalypse Now, I realized why: It was a based on a far-right script by Milius (who went on to direct Conan the Barbarian and Red Dawn) about how the US could have won in Vietnam if we only had the guts to unleash Kurtz. (Apocalypse Now was directed by Francis Ford Coppola, who won his first Oscar for writing Patton.)
The notion that art is about equality and niceness is just a cover story put out by artists to keep us poor schlumps from realizing what they are up to. Art, from the Great Pyramid on down, is actually about the most talented and/or self-confident bullying the rest of us into furnishing them with the resources to realize their visions, while the nice liberal dweebs pass on to us the artists’ self-serving justifications.
Blomkamp, however, is unusual in that he barely tries to hide his worldview. So the NLDs just make up for him a worldview more acceptable to themselves. In dumbed-down 21st-century America, who will notice?
Not the nice liberal dweebs.
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