Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Darwin’s Nightmare

November 8, 2010 by admin  
Filed under Fun-movies-documentaries-lake

Darwin’s Nightmare

Forty years ago, a voracious predator was introduced into the waters of Tanzania’s Lake Victoria where it quickly extinguished the entire stock of native fish. Its ecological impact aside, the Nile Perch became highly prized for its tender, plump fillets, hardly meeting the demand at elegant 4-star European restaurants. Huge, empty foreign cargo planes land to export the lake’s gourmet bounty, taking out 55 tons of processed fish daily. In their wake, they leave starving villagers to scrounge a meal out of the discarded fish heads and rotting carcasses. With massive epidemics, raging civil wars, crime, homelessness, and drug-addicted children, the question becomes: what do the reportedly “empty” planes deliver to this destitute community? The answer is as shocking as it is devastating, and Darwin’s Nightmare becomes a nightmare for all mankind.

Rating: (out of 27 reviews)

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5 Responses to “Darwin’s Nightmare”
  1. B. Merritt says:

    Review by B. Merritt for Darwin’s Nightmare
    DARWIN’S NIGHTMARE is truly that: a nightmare. Filmed on-location in Tanzania along the banks of the massive Lake Victoria, director Hubert Sauper puts the lens of his camera in the face of everyone involved in this human atrocity …from those who aid it, to those at the bottom of its global circumstances.

    The focus is on the gigantic Nile Perch, a freshwater fish of unbelievable size, who was unfortunately introduced to Lake Victoria and has decimated the native fish population. On the upside, however, is the new economy brought by the Nile Perch. Million dollar fish packing operations abound and jobs are available …but only to a few hundred natives. The remainder live in squalor and on starvation’s doorstep. All of the fish, without exception, is flown out of Africa to richer, more affluent, neighboring continents (mostly Europe). The money being made by the IMF and a few select companies is impressive, but can it last?

    Mr. Sauper has done something extraordinary. Without putting in any bias, he has allowed this story to unfold on its own. I’ve never, EVER, seen a documentary like this. I was appalled by the educational system in Tanzania (basically nonexistent) and yet startled by the realization that none of the Tanzanians know or care about the globalization that is causing much of their problems (again, an educational issue). One of the natives that Mr. Sauper interviewed even wished that war would spill over from Angola and into Tanzania so that he could have “better work”. Incredible!

    AIDS, of course, is an ever present item in Africa, and Tanzania is no exception. But the additional problem here is that there are few facilities to care for the infected. On many of the large islands on Lake Victoria, there are no doctors, hospitals, or dispensaries. Prostitution is widespread as women become widowed and have no source of income. Children are on the street, fighting for fists full of rice, early victims of AIDS after losing their parents. And what is the world doing about this …?

    The hidden side-story in the documentary is “what’s on the planes when they land in Tanzania.” High-level officials say, “Nothing.” But truth be told (by one of the pilots interviewed) sometimes weapons are shipped in on the planes, destined for war-torn areas of Africa. No food. No humanitarian supplies. Nothing else makes it in to Tanzania. We (the world) take from Africa, and all we give it is more death and destruction. This isn’t stated directly in the film, but is easily surmised through the interviews.

    Finally, there’s the airport. Almost as much a character in the film as anyone, this landing field (I hesitate to call it an airport) is a ramshackle building with flies, bees, and broken equipment, resulting in many airliner mishaps throughout the years. A testament to the unspoken fact that the world has no intentions of developing this area. We’ll take until there’s nothing left, then we’ll leave Tanzania and her people to her final verdict. Death!

  2. Ferdinand Van Heerden says:

    Review by Ferdinand Van Heerden for Darwin’s Nightmare
    This film is phenomenal. By using the allegory of the predator fish Sauper hits the nail on the head as to how the dynamics of “survival of the fittest” affect our lives. The quote from the Ukrainian pilot sums it up: “African kids get tanks and guns for Christmas, European kids get grapes”.

    By showing how the unfair balance of trade locks people into poverty we are able to revisit the colonial past of every place that European business has touched. This story could have been the Spanish conquest of South America, the Dutch invasion of the far east/Indonesia or the story of North America.

    Saupers gentle hand, softly, gently drawing out the story from real lives, takes us on an unforgettable journey with no easy answers or exits. Every player in the system only sees their part and only when the viewer pulls together the whole process of destitution does the horror become evident. The horror is that every one of us in involved in the same ecosystem of destruction.

    What this documentary achieves is to expose the reality that has driven recent cinema blockbusters such as “Lord of War” and “Syriana”. The medieval conditions of rotting fish dumps, where people fight for scraps of fish bones and brains (with maggots still crawling on them) should strike horror into the heart of every thinking person. How can it be that in these times, where the freight plane pilot scans through digital pics of his personal diary of family and terror, such scenes of primitive destitution play just under the surface.

    Striking, stunning and the true horror of brilliant documentary exposure.

  3. Bruce Whitehouse says:

    Review by Bruce Whitehouse for Darwin’s Nightmare
    I agree with the main point Hubert Sauper is trying to make with this film: that globalization, the increasing interconnectedness linking people and places around the world, has led to a deeply unjust economic order, in which a lucky few reap most of the benefits while most everyone else sees their living standards going from bad to worse. This argument I accept wholeheartedly, but I was disappointed by the manner in which “Darwin’s Nightmare” tries to convey it.

    Sauper brings his camera to the shores of Lake Victoria and talks with a bunch of people: a night watchman, a fish processing plant owner, a journalist, some fishermen, some bar girls, some Ukrainian cargo plane crews, and some street children. (These are the ones we see, anyway.) The pilots and the plant owners are doing okay, but everyone else seems to be facing greater misery and insecurity. This commerce raises some profound ironies: for one, Tanzania is exporting thousands of tons of Nile Perch fillets to Europe while millions of its own citizens are facing famine because they are too poor to buy the food available in the markets; for another, the planes that come to bring Lake Victoria’s fish to Europe arrive empty, or sometimes even bringing arms to fuel Africa’s bloody conflicts. A meeting of wealthy exporters and trade officials takes place on a posh hotel veranda while crippled children fight over food on the dusty street below.

    Sauper’s methods pack an emotional punch, but also leave the film open to criticism. Why doesn’t he speak to a broader sample of Tanzanians? Why does he allude to issues like the Nile Perch’s environmental impact or the arms trade but fail to follow up on them? Most importantly, why does he rely solely on anecdotal evidence to get his message across? The “big picture” is hinted at and only fleetingly glimpsed.

    I ordered this DVD to show to students in a course on globalization. Like me, they found it disturbing and evocative, but less compelling than others we’d watched on similar themes. (Stephanie Black’s 2001 documentary “Life and Debt,” about globalization’s impact in Jamaica, was much more effective in this regard.) Those who are inclined to accept Sauper’s thinking may come away wanting more, and those inclined to be skeptical will find his case easier to dismiss, which is a shame, because it deserves to be hammered home in the most powerful way possible.

  4. One Man's Opinion says:

    Review by One Man’s Opinion for Darwin’s Nightmare
    This documentary provides a dramatic reality check against the relative comfort in which most of us live. Regardless of how you feel about world economics and globalization, one cannot help but be moved by the impact that turning Lake Victoria into a fish farm has had on the people of that country.

    The filmmaker stubs his toe a bit in his effort to obtain an support for a local radical’s assertion that the fish was being exchanged for weapons. When he finally obtains an acknowledgment of the weapons trade from a pilot, it was to Angola, not Tanzania. He would have done better to follow what happens to the money, especially after hearing the very leaders of the country ignore the evidence of environmental impact and assert that their only interest was in selling fish.

    But his unsophisticated interpretation of the problem does not blunt the impact of the film. The real story is in the faces and words of the local people. One leaves a screening with a single question. What are we doing to this world?

  5. Miguel F. Aznar says:

    Review by Miguel F. Aznar for Darwin’s Nightmare
    An avalanche of information from websites, newspapers, magazines, and even television helps us to know the effects of globalization. But knowing that two million people in some far away region face starvation is not understanding even one who does. Documentary filmmaker Hubert Sauper brings understanding through Darwin’s Nightmare.

    He leads us through Mwanza, a Tanzanian city on the shores of Lake Victoria with an airport. Every day the largest cargo planes carry 500 tons of fish to Europe, an amount that could provide a half pound per day to the two million Tanzanians facing starvation at the time of filming.

    Hubert takes us from knowing to understanding by interviewing a Russian pilot that wants all children of the world to be happy, but knows that he has taken African food to Europe and European weapons to Africa (“For Christmas Day, children in Europe got grapes and children in Africa got weapons.”). Hubert interviews a nightwatchman, who got the $1/night job because his predecessor was killed by thieves, and who welcomes war because then everyone could get a better paying job in the army. He interviews the small children that live on the street with nothing but ragged shorts and t-shirts, and who melt the plastic from fish boxes for the mind-numbing fumes.

    The camera is so close to the subjects and stays, peering across a nose at the lake beyond, that you feel as if you had all day to sit with these people and listen to their hopes and fears. Interviews with an artist, a journalist, and several prostitutes flesh out the tragic cycles of natural resources leaving the very place they’re needed because of some global economic calculus in which each person plays a small, unwilling part.

    This is not the “feel good” movie of the year. It is the “feel” movie of the year. Hubert gives us a feeling and understanding of people every bit as warm and clever and loving as those with whom we share our table and our neighborhoods. At a reception after the film showing, Hubert indicated that he hoped that “understanding” will push people to find out more and do more to address such injustices.

    This review was based on a theater, not DVD, viewing.

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