THUMBS UP DOCUMENATARY REVIEW RATING!
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!