Page last updated at 05:06 GMT, Saturday, 19 September 2009 06:06 UK

Nigeria 'offended' by sci-fi film

Handout still from Sony Pictures of District9
The film depicts aliens living in a South African shanty town

Nigeria's government is asking cinemas to stop showing a science fiction film, District Nine, that it says denigrates the country's image.

Information Minister Dora Akunyili told the BBC's Network Africa programme that she had asked the makers of the film, Sony, for an apology.

She says the film portrays Nigerians as cannibals, criminals and prostitutes.

An actor from the film said that it was not just Nigerians who were portrayed as villains.

The Malawian actor, Eugene Khumbanyiwa, plays a gang leader with the nickname of Obasanjo, also the surname of former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.

The film is about alien refugees who set up home in a South African shanty town called District Nine.

It is a loose allegory about apartheid and recent violence by South Africans against foreigners.

It's not like Nigerians do eat aliens
Actor Eugene Khumbanyiwa

Ms Akunyili said it clearly took aim at Nigerians.

"We feel very bad about this because the film clearly denigrated Nigeria's image by portraying us as if we are cannibals, we are criminals," she said.

"The name our former president was clearly spelt out as the head of the criminal gang and our ladies shown like prostitutes sleeping with extra-terrestrial beings."


Soweto residents tell Jonah Fisher how the District 9 filmmakers hired them

'It's a story'

The information minister said she had ordered the Nigerian film and video censors' board to ask all cinemas to stop showing the film and to confiscate it.

"I have also formally written to Sony Pictures Entertainment, the company that produced this film, demanding an unconditional apology for this unwarranted attack on Nigeria's image," she added.

She also said she had asked them to review the film with a view to remove "all offending portions that injured our image as a nation".

Ms Akunyili said said Nigeria was now hitting back with a policy of "rebranding", after allowing the international community to define the country based on the behaviour of "[a] few criminals".

She said that Nigeria's Nollywood film industry was also being pressed to help portray Nigeria in a better light.

But Mr Khumbanyiwa said Nigerians in the cast did not seem worried by the portrayal of their country.

He suggested that the film, which depicts people wanting to eat aliens to gain the superhuman powers, should not be taken too literally.

"It's a story, you know," he said. "It's not like Nigerians do eat aliens. Aliens don't even exist in the first place."

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