A gritty, intelligent blend of science fiction, political commentary and explosive action, 'District 9' is anything but a South African film cliche.
With the alien invasion now taking the world by storm, hitting top spot at the North American box office on its opening weekend, we recently spoke to director Neill Blomkamp and lead actor Sharlto Copley about Hollywood, Peter Jackson and global success.
TV and film producer Copley has known Blomkamp for more than a decade with the two collaborating on several small 3D-animation projects while the director was still in high school.
So for Copley it was just natural to work with him again.
"It was a very natural progression," explains the man who helped make Blomkamp's short 'Alive In Joburg' on which 'District 9' is based.
"With Neil you never feel restricted, and I'm just glad that I could have made the film the way he set it up," Copley says, tucking a long strand of hair behind his ear, looking and sounding nothing like the pen-pushing Afrikaner he plays in the film.
"Sharlto was just a natural piece in the puzzle, 100 percent," confirms Blomkamp, who'd previously been lined up to bring video game 'Halo' to the big screen.
When that project fell through, award-winning producer Peter Jackson threw his weight, and money, behind the South African sci-fi story. Copley claims he didn't feel the pressure ? even though he had never acted before.
"It wasn't intimidating, no, but more inspiring," he reasons. "I also feel very grateful, because Neill took a huge chance with me. I feel blessed that they had faith in me."
Blomkamp, making his feature film debut after directing adverts like the Citroen 'dancing robot' spot, echoes Copely's thoughts on Jackson: "It's not intimidating working with him. We worked together for four months on 'Halo', so I got to know him pretty well.
"He was only involved to the degree that he was needed, and mainly gave me feedback on footage. But it's still cool to work with him - he's a great guy and very talented."'District 9' opens at local cinemas this week, but it has already fast-tracked to success in the US, something that Copley didn't expect.
"I thought Neill's film would be well received, but I also didn't know. I was assured that he's doing a great film, I just didn't know it was as good as 'D9'."
It seems as though Blomkamp, who emigrated to Canada in 1997, was also a bit apprehensive about the success: "I didn't know, but I'm very grateful. I'm being positive, and it definitely exceeded my expectations."
And, although Blomkamp won at the Cannes Lions ? the ad industry's Oscars ? in 2008, he ranks 'District 9' as one of his biggest achievements. "Oh, this blows it out of the water," he grins in his hybrid US/SA accent.
"But my proudest achievement is an ad I did for Nike, which cost R28-million to make. It was really cool but, sadly, nobody got to see it."
That disappointment should be diluted by 'District 9's success and the bright Hollywood career it heralds.
'Halo' is certainly off the table ? "As far as I'm concerned, the project is dead. I won't be involved anymore. I don't know if they still making one, but I won't be involved" ? but there's already a 'District 9' sequel on the horizon.
"I will make another sequel with the same hand-held style, as I think it's vital to the film. It just feels more real," he says, sounding excited at the prospect.
Copely, though, is less certain about his own future.
"It's weird," he says. "It has turned my reality completely up-side-down. I have no interest to go knocking on Hollywood doors, but I'm very grateful for the opportunity. Hollywood has inspired me."
As did Blomkamp.
"Neill recognised something in me," says Copely. "It changed my life and changed my external realities. So just the fact that I'm in the film working with Neil, while he gave me a chance, will be my fondest memory of 'D9'."
'District 9' has clearly had a huge effect on Copely and he hopes the film will have a similar impact on South Africans as a whole.
"It shows we can make decent films here, and 'D9' is a bizarre film that just happens to be exceptional.
"Hopefully we will see a change in South African filmmaking," he says confidently.