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

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in ecological degradation, economic development
3 comments on “DARWIN’S NIGHTMARE
  1. Jason Charron says:

    Slaves and whores eh? Alarm bells start ringing in my ears when inflammatory language is used to stir emotions in the place of hard logic.
    It seems to me that the director is applying a theory of natural ecosystems to a artificial system, the global economy. Granted there are some interesting similarities but the market doesn’t abide by natural laws. The second problem I have with this deductive reasoning is the leap the director makes between capitalism and poverty. Poverty has been around far longer than capitalism. There is an assumed and implied causal relationship suggesting that poverty is a byproduct of capitalism. History tells us however that poverty is a constant of the human conditions.
    Oh…And capitalists eat babies too!

  2. Jacques P. OLIVIER says:

    Thank you for your comments Jason, but clearly you have not seen the movie as you would have otherwise understood that the man-made ecological disaster and economical distress of Lake Victoria was indeed caused by capitalistic interests. Before the Nile Perch was introduced in Lake Victoria, there was seemingly a sustained balance not just in nature but in the local economy. Whether poverty is created by capitalism can be debated but it surely contributes to it and most certainly does not reduce it. The old adage remains true: under capitalism, the richer becomes richer and the poorer becomes poorer. The entrepreneurs were quite content with the lucrative predicament of Lake Victoria.
    Capitalism does not eat babies, but if you would have seen the movie you would have seen the children of capitalism in their worst state, struggling with starvation, drugs, violence, and illicit sex. No, capitalism does not eat babies, but the local wars fostered by capitalism in that region of Africa, produce as many casualties of war on each single day as the number of deaths on 9/11 in NYC.
    I am not against capitalism, in fact, I believe that capitalism is inevitable – however its negative effects can and ought to be minimized. Moreover, I truly believe in “survival of the fittest”, and fittest could mean strongest or smartest or most resourceful.

  3. Jason Charron says:

    Granted there are winners and loosers in a capitalist system but let us not forget that capitalism has created great middle classes as well(new middle class of 300,000,000 in China in the past ~15 years alone). As a boy I heard of countless deaths and autrocities caused by colonialism, imperialism, socialism, totaliterism, markism, lenonism, communism, etc…Capitalism hasn’t resolved all social issues but has lifted more people out of poverty than any of those other “isms”…
    …ok, maybe I should see the movie…

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