Darwin’s Nightmare by writer-director Hubert Saupert is a documentary exposing the sad tale of “survival of the fittest” along the shores of Lake Victoria, the African lake ironically considered the cradle of humankind’s origin. Darwin’s central principles on natural selection, extinction and divergence are vividly unraveled through the intertwined real stories of hardened local fishermen and soldiers, starving and drug-addicted homeless children, business-savvy entrepreneurs, smooth-talking politicians, street-smart prostitutes, and bitter Russian pilots – all trapped in the turbulent and often violent whirlwinds of globalization.
The Nil Perch was artificially introduced in Lake Victoria in the 60s and has since then virtually destroyed the eco-system leaving the surrounding villages in a pseudo-economy where the delectable fish filet is abundantly exported to industrialized countries and only the heads and bones are left behind to feed the local population. Large Russian cargo planes fly over Lake Victoria everyday packed with fish filet…but those planes did not come to Africa empty…they brought with them weapons and ammunitions fostering local wars which further decay the social fabric of Africa.
This documentary starts sadly and as the individual stories slowly unveil one of the worst example of globalization, one is left with a deep and unbearable sense of uneasiness and repugnance. It exposes a not quite “quid pro quo” exchange whereby Africa’s natural resources are purloined by the hands of hypocritical capitalism. Indeed, not only Lake Victoria is becoming sterile but its socio-economical structure is left in a state of plunging consternation. This movie is as raw as they come and will invariably affect your views on globalization and sustainable development when (mis)managed far beyond the bounds of corporate social responsibility.
I leave you with poignant words from the director: “The old question, which social and political structure is the best for the world seems to have been answered. Capitalism has won…by either convincing its enemies or eliminating them…It is, for example, incredible that wherever prime raw material is discovered, the locals die in misery, their sons become soldiers, and their daughters are turned into servants and whores.”
Amongst its long list of nominations, Darwin’s Nightmare won over sixteen international prizes including best documentary at the European Film Awards 2004 and best film at the Paris festival de l’environnement 2005. More info available here.
Jacques P. OLIVIER
5 July 2006