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The Short Films and Commercials of Neill Blomkamp

August 13, 2009

People are going to be absolutely blown away when they see District 9; the first feature film South African born-Vancouver, BC based filmmaker Neill Blomkamp.  With the release of District 9 tomorrow, Blomkamp is sure to quickly become the hot new director in Hollywood.  His cinéma vérité style combined with his seamless integration of computer effects, make his work something entirely new and unique.  This filmmaking style serves him well in District 9, making it one of the most original sci-fi films, nay one of the most original films period, that I’ve seen in years — see my full review of District 9 here.

Neill Blomkamp has gone from visual effects artist to feature film director in just a few years, and he’s not even 30 years old yet — Say Will, what are you doing with your life, eh? There is no doubt that the man has a very promising career ahead of him; anyone who has seen District 9 will not debate that point, but I wanted to take a few minutes to look back at some of the extraordinary work Blomkamp has already done.  A retrospective if you will, of most of his amazing short films and commercials.

Alive in Joburg

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Blomkamp drew on his youth in apartheid South Africa as the basis for Alive in Joburg; the film that would go on to inspire his feature film District 9.  The story of Joburg is essentially the same: aliens arrive on Earth and can’t leave, the government segregates them from society due to all the problems they cause and naturally the shit ends up hitting the fan.  Joburg is shot documentary style, painting a frighteningly convincing picture of a country actually having to deal with refugee aliens.  This ain’t no Alien Nation, this is real. The short film also features Sharlto Copely, who produced it, and who also stars as the lead in Blomkamp’s District 9.

Halo – Combat
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Microsoft and Bungie got together with Peter Jackson and Blomkamp to make these three (edited together as one for your viewing convenience) short films set in the Halo universe. The films were as much viral advertising for Halo 3 as they were a test bed and pitch for a full blown Halo feature film, but that doesn’t make them any less impressive. We all know that movie deal fell through, and neither Jackson or Blomkamp are tied to the project any longer. But hey, at least we’ve got these shorts. I’m not a huge Halo fan, but judging from Blomkamp’s work here, it could have been a pretty cool movie.

Adidas – Yellow

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Adidas commissioned various commercial directors to create a series of short films based on the colours of their shoes. Blomkamp was given the colour yellow. Although Yellow has very little to do with shoes, it is still very awesome. A dangerous AI escapes into society and must be hunted down. With obvious nods to Ghost in the Shell and Isaac Asimov, Yellow is one of my favourite Blomkamp films.

Tetra Vaal

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Think third world Robocop and you get the gist of this short.

Tempbot

The charming story of an office temp… who happens to be a robot… and falls in love with Lynda Carter of Wonder Woman fame. We’ve all been there.

Citroën – Alive with Technology

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It’s a dancing, transforming robot! This Citroën ad from 2005 pretty much proved in concept that a live-action Transformers film was possible. We all know how that turned out, though I’d love to see what Blomkamp could do with a Transformers movie. Step aside Bay!

Nike – Evolution

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Everyone has seen this amazing Nike commercial, it’s arguably Blomkamp’s best known work to date. Enough said.

Nike – Crab

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Robotic crabs armed (legged?) with Nike shoes and a ball. This is going to haunt my nightmares forever, thanks Neill!

If Blomkamp’s CV doesn’t get you excited about District 9, then we can’t be friends any more. You have to see that movie.

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17 Responses to The Short Films and Commercials of Neill Blomkamp

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  6. Torley says:

    What’s brilliantly special about Neill Blomkamp is that having had so much firsthand experience with 3D animation and computer-generated effects, he understands how to use them with deft balance and treat them as everything else does in the film (I’m paraphrasing what he’s said in several interviews).

    Intriguingly, his staunch supporter Peter Jackson has a parallel with his early days featuring lots of physical and puppet effects — there’s definitely resonant kinship there.

    As a result in Blomkamp’s work, we get the “WOW” factor which gets the desired and focused attention, as opposed to the wrong kind of reaction which goes “Oh geez, another CGI monster?” The effects support the story, instead of distracting from it.

    Thanks for this compilation!

  7. frankjcapp says:

    What hasn’t been commented on is the amazing editing each of these productions entail. I know that Neil was in the editing room for each production — and D9 will probably get an Oscar nod for Editing as well. His style is unique, and innovative. We’ve not seen the last of this guy!!

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  10. Ross says:

    Wow! Didn’t realise he’d done so many interesting films. Shame we didn’t have our site up to help with them, but seriously impressed. No surprise he’s gone on to do District 9. Agree with Torley about the balance and 3D!

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  14. Jesse Smith says:

    >>one of the most original sci-fi films, nay one of the most original films period, that I’ve seen in years <<

    Huh? Alien(s) stranded on earth, needs technical assistance to leave, befriends Terran while being chased by nasty authority figures … "E.T." anyone?

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  16. peterbowell says:

    these short films are very very impressive. neill blomkomp has some future ahead of him so looking forward to seeing if he makes halo the movie he’ll be really the best director to do it, neill if your reading this please make it

  17. James Nelson says:

    These are great, and as we now know D9 was surperb as well. Much better and original than that other Sf pic that ran along side. The difference being I still think about D9, and can watch it again, whereas with that other pic, once was enough for me. Terrific effects and a ho-hum story that I couldn’t get worked up for.

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