Autumn 2005 Documentary series
Monday, November 7, 2005 at 7:00pm
Rated NR ·
English, Russian, and Swahili
An award-winning documentary and an Official Selection at the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival, the powerful Darwin’s Nightmare is the latest work by Hubert Sauper, acclaimed for his politically-conscious films. Darwin’s Nightmare is a scathing commentary on the state of emergency brought about by globalization; in particular, it takes a harsh look at the suffering of the impoverished fishermen of Mwanza, Tanzania. Grounding his film in the daily life of a specific community, Sauper constructs a deeply disturbing portrait of the appalling inequities that result from the endless pursuit of profit.
The documentary opens with a gently meditative shot of the shadow of an airplane on the water, an image that stands in sharp contrast with the hell on earth to come. The Nile perch, a species of enormous fish, was introduced into Lake Victoria as an experiment in the sixties; since then, the fish has wiped out the lake’s other marine life. It also has a tendency to consume its own young. This cannibalism provides a succinct metaphor for the voracious consumption of the West, as the Nile perch is the region’s most profitable export.
Everyone with a stake in the market downplays the ecological disaster and pays no mind to the nagging fact that the locals are starving to death. The meaty fish feeds two million Europeans every day, but residents on Victoria’s shores have nothing to eat save the discarded rotting scraps. But politicians ignore the problem. While the men fish, the women must work as prostitutes for the Russian pilots who deliver the fish to Europe.
Darwin’s Nightmare is a haunting and, at times, overwhelming reminder of the consequences of capitalism. It stirs our collective con- science, urging us to remember that human life should be valued above commerce.