In 2006, Microsoft stunned the world by announcing that a virtual unknown would be directing the big-budget film adaptation of the Halo franchise. That unknown was Neil Blomkamp, a young South African filmmaker who had won awards for his series of futuristic commercials and shorts. Those included minithriller Yellow, the Robocop-esque Tetra Vaal, the Office-like satire Tempbot, and Alive in Joburg, an ambitious sci-fi drama about alien refugees occupying part of Johannesburg.
Despite the backing of Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, Blomkamp was inexperienced enough to make studio executives reconsider the Halo film project, which remains in turnaround after being put on indefinite hold in 2006. Luckily, those intrigued by Blomkamp's Halo live-action shorts about Orbital Drop Shock Troops will soon get a chance to see his first feature film, District 9. The first trailer for the sci-fi drama, which is based on Alive in Joburg, hit the Web this week and is viewable in HD via Apple's Web site. Due out in US theaters on August 14, it is executive-produced by Jackson and (ironically) distributed by Sony Pictures.