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Movie Review: Darwin’s Nightmare There are two things which struck me instantly about this documentary, the first one undoubtedly being its name. But the second and more disheartening of the two is the nonchalance of the people of Mwanza, Tanzania who are portrayed in the movie…
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Download file to see previous pages The plot revolves around different people, the local fishing community, homeless kids, prostitutes, Russian cargo pilots, a night watchman, a priest and many others but linked by a common thread – the fishing of the Nile Perch in Lake Victoria for export to Europe and the subsequent import of arms to perpetrate war in Africa. And when the Russian pilot says; “The children of Angola receive guns for Christmas, the children of Europe receive grapes”, we somehow get an idea of the dystopian manner in which globalization and social and ecological disintegration have impacted the lesser privileged societies of the world and we cannot help but accept the truth with a pinch of salt. The past decade has been one of large scale production, mass consumption, commercialization, globalization and much more. With the advent of the capitalist and consumerist culture, the world has seen many of the developing economies involving themselves actively in global trade and exports. And many of these nations have prided in higher economic stability and rates of growth as well as an improvement in the standard of living of their people. But what Hubert Sauper tries to explain through “Darwin’s Nightmare” is the fact that much of this holds true only in statistics and numbers and the reality is no way near agreement with figures and findings. Centered in and around Lake Victoria in Tanzania, Sauper tells the story of how the incessant fishing at the lake has left a devastating aftermath on the ecology and economy of the country. In the 1960s the Nile perch was introduced in to the lake perhaps as a means of food for the local population. However, as time progressed, the predatory perch attacked and destroyed most of the native fish and living organisms thereby causing massive damage to the natural ecosystem and biodiversity of the lake. This was followed by continual fishing of the perch which was being processed as fillets and exported to Europe for consumption. It is appalling to see how the perch in its best form is eaten by the people of Europe while the fishing community in Lake Victoria is left hungry with nothing but the carcasses to feed on. But Sauper’s story telling doesn’t stop there. And that is the most remarkable feature of the film and why I feel the film surpassed my expectations. He shows us not only the ecological effect of the Nile perch and its subsequent fishing but also its adverse impact on the social, cultural and economic aspects of the Mwanzan community. So the ‘nightmare’ is not confined to the Darwinian element alone but is in reference to a lot of other issues such as poverty, social and economic inequalities, lack of political focus, ignorance, misanthropy and the disturbing truth that the weakest sections of society are in many cases unable to receive the benefits of so called foreign aid and support. In other words, Sauper is able to incorporate varied and equally difficult themes of such magnitude using a single canvas and in its most basic form. And the message he conveys comes across loud and clear. There are many visual images and conversations that refuse to leave your mind even hours after the movie ends. One character who needs to be mentioned here is Raphael, the night watchman who ‘protects’ the National Fisheries Institute for a dollar a night. Whether he speaks of crocodiles in the river, how the ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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