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Darwin S Nightmare Essay Format

"Darwin's Nightmare," Hubert Sauper's harrowing, indispensable documentary, is framed by the arrival and departure of an enormous Soviet-made cargo plane at an airstrip outside Mwanza, Tanzania. The plane, with its crew of burly Russians and Ukrainians, will leave Mwanza for Europe carrying 55 tons of processed fish caught by Lake Victoria fisherman and filleted at a local factory. Though Mr. Sauper's investigation of the economy and ecology around the lake ranges far and wide -- he talks to preachers and prostitutes, to street children and former soldiers -- he keeps coming back to a simple question. What do the planes bring to Africa?

The answers vary. The factory managers say the planes' cavernous holds are empty when they land. One of the Russians, made uncomfortable by the question, mutters something vague about "equipment." Some of his colleagues, and several ordinary Mwanzans, are more forthright: the planes, while they occasionally bring humanitarian food and medical aid, more often bring the weapons that fuel the continent's endless and destructive wars.

In any case, they leave behind a scene of misery and devastation that "Darwin's Nightmare" presents as the agonized human face of globalization. While the flesh of millions of Nile perch is stripped, cleaned and flash-frozen for export to wealthy countries, millions of people in the Tanzanian interior live on the brink of famine. Some of them will eat fried fish heads, which are processed in vast open-air pits infested with maggots and scavenging birds. Along the shores of the lake, homeless children fight over scraps of food and get high from the fumes of melting plastic-foam containers used to pack the fish. In the encampments where the fishermen live, AIDS is rampant and the afflicted walk back to their villages to die.

The Nile perch itself haunts the film's infernal landscape like a monstrous metaphor. An alien species introduced into Lake Victoria sometime in the 1960's, it has devoured every other kind of fish in the lake, even feeding on its own young as it grows to almost grotesque dimensions, and destroying an ancient and diverse ecosystem. To some, its prevalence is a boon, since the perch provides an exportable resource that has brought development money from the World Bank and the European Union. The survival of nearly everyone in the film is connected to the fish: the prostitutes who keep company with the pilots in the hotel bars; the displaced farmers who handle the rotting carcasses; the night watchman, armed with a bow and a few poison-tipped arrows, who guards a fish-related research institute. He is paid $1 a day and found the job after his predecessor was murdered.

Filming with a skeleton crew -- basically himself and another camera operator -- Mr. Sauper has produced an extraordinary work of visual journalism, a richly illustrated report on a distant catastrophe that is also one of the central stories of our time. Rather than use voice-over or talking-head expert interviews, he allows the dimensions of the story to emerge through one-on-one conversation and acutely observed visual detail.

But "Darwin's Nightmare" is also a work of art. Given the gravity of Mr. Sauper's subject, and the rigorous pessimism of his inquiry, it may seem a bit silly to compliment him for his eye. There are images here that have the terrifying sublimity of a painting by El Greco or Hieronymus Bosch: rows of huge, rotting fish heads sticking out of the ground; children turning garbage into makeshift toys. At other moments, you are struck by the natural loveliness of the lake and its surrounding hills, or by the handsome, high-cheekboned faces of many of the Tanzanians.

The beauty, though, is not really beside the point; it is an integral part of the movie's ethical vision, which in its tenderness and its angry sense of apocalypse seems to owe less to modern ideologies than to the prophetic rage of William Blake, who glimpsed heaven and hell at an earlier phase of capitalist development. Mr. Sauper's movie is clearly aimed at the political conscience of Western audiences, and its implicit critique of some of our assumptions about the shape and direction of the global economy deserves to be taken seriously. But its reach extends far beyond questions of policy and political economy, and it turns the fugitive, mundane facts that are any documentary's raw materials into the stuff of tragedy and prophecy.

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Descriptions

Darwin's Nightmare [tells] the chilling story of the social and environmental destruction wrought in Central Africa as cargo planes from Europe delivered load after load of arms to the region, before heading home filled with the choicest fillets of Nile perch (Source: Davidson 2013, np link).

Sometime in the 1960′s, in the heart of Africa, a new animal was introduced into Lake Victoria as a little scientific experiment. The Nile Perch, a voracious predator, extinguished almost the entire stock of the native fish species. However, the new fish multiplied so fast, that its white fillets are today exported all around the world. Huge hulking ex-Soviet cargo planes come daily to collect the latest catch in exchange for their southbound cargo… Kalashnikovs and ammunitions for the uncounted wars in the dark center of the continent. This booming multinational industry of fish and weapons has created an ungodly globalized alliance on the shores of the world’s biggest tropical lake: an army of local fishermen, World bank agents, homeless children, African ministers, EU-commissioners, Tanzanian prostitutes and Russian pilots (Source: Anon nda, np link).

Darwin’s Nightmare is essentially a story of the folly of man, showing how a simple decision to introduce a new breed of fish into a lake has led to environmental disaster, destroyed the local community now blighted by prostitution and drugs and helped to nurture the African arms trade. This is the dark side of globalisation shown in micro format, and it’s not a pretty sight (Source: Anon 2009a, p.22).

The agonized human face of globalization… The survival of nearly everyone in the film is connected to the fish: the prostitutes who keep company with the pilots in the hotel bars; the displaced farmers who handle the rotting carcasses; the night watchman, armed with a bow and a few poison-tipped arrows, who guards a fish-related research institute (Source: Scott 2005, np link).

I especially liked the raw reality of the film; nowadays we are constantly presented with images of third world suffering that distance 'us' from 'them' - this film does not allow that sort of comfort thinking, but more highlights this issue as part of a colossal world injustice (Source: Eloise 2004, np link).

What unfolds before our eyes is a slow-moving and deeply affecting tragedy, a tragedy with both ecological and social dimensions (Source: Jones 2008, p.82).

... crudely typed and somewhat theatrical intertitles ... introduce participants in the style of a morality play: Sergey, Dima, Jura, Vladimir and Stanislav, the ‘fish cargo pilots’; Dimond, ‘factory owner, turns big fish into small fillets’; the street children Msafiri, Franky, Shabani, Mustafa, Josephu, ‘strolling the streets of “fish” city’; Raphael, ‘for one dollar a night he protects the National Fisheries Institute’; Eliza the ‘girlfriend of many pilots’ (Source: Hughes 2012, p.255).

Using a minimalist documentary style - there is no narration, everything is told through its characters - Darwin’s Nightmare illuminates with simple clarity how the export of this monocrop to Europe is connected to the decay of local society. Fishermen who were once farmers leave their villages for long periods to fish. Prostitutes infect them with HIV, which gets brought back to the villages. The fisherman, and sometimes their wives and children, die of AIDS. Widows become whores. Orphans become street kids who sniff gas and melt the plastic fish containers to inhale the fumes. A fisheries research centre pays a man a dollar a day to guard its gates – a job that got the last guard killed. Pilots from Russia support the prostitution industry. Their massive cargo planes land empty – or sometimes filled with weapons – and leave for Europe filled with fish. The airstrip’s understaffed control tower is infested with wasps and has a broken radio. On the runway, cargo planes whip past the skeletal remains of less successful landing attempts. The fish factory, which employs 1,000 people, sells the discarded fish carcasses locally. Selling deep-fried carcasses that were previously worm-infested provides a few more jobs and a nutritious meal for the locals. … Sauper has tried to make his tale of globalization just as simple so we can understand what seems almost impossible for most of us to grasp – how our consumer habits affect others millions of miles away (Source: Fraser 2008, p.19).

Welcome to Tanzania’s `fish city’, Mwanza. Sprawled along the shores of Lake Victoria, the terrain of this town looks unwelcoming, but its tatty airstrip is uncannily busy. Enormous cargo planes arrive daily to collect tons of white fish fillets for European consumption. The booming fishing industry is the pulse sustaining Mwanza’s economy. What’s the drama in this, you may ask. However Hubert Sauper’s Oscar-nominated documentary Darwin’s Nightmare does not care much about dramatic rummaging of the subject, and is engrossed instead in a pensive observation of the looming disaster in the town’s ecology and economy. The drama is the Nile Perch, a non-native predatory fish species weighing up to 200kg which was introduced into the lake in the 1960s as an experiment, and which has coupled well with another giant – global capitalism. In the deeper waters of Lake Victoria, the Nile Perch multiplies at a rate that may please the IMF, its advocates and the industries they support. But the voracious fish remains highly elusive to the shallow water fishing technologies of local fishermen, while preying off to near extinction the rich variety of species on which the locals traditionally depended for subsistence. For Sauper, though, the Nile Perch is only a hellish allegory for the nightmare that emerges from the desolate stories and experiences of people who inhabit the city. With the economic arrangement fostered by the Nile Perch, Mwanza’s denizens include East European pilots, the prostitutes who entertain them, impoverished villagers who have come looking for work, orphans who fight for a fistful of rice, and street kids who take refuge in sniffing intoxicating glue made from the plastic waste of Nile Perch packaging. Tanzania itself, the film informs us, is anticipating a famine, and locals are unable to afford the leviathan Nile Perch, which goes for export anyhow. Only the sweepings are left over, and in one harrowing scene, we see a woman stacking and drying rotten fish which was rejected for export, heaps of carcasses infested with maggots, which are then sold to the locals who eat the heads fried or smoked. … All in all, Darwin is a momentous investigation, which refuses to see anything – ecology, economy or politics – in isolation (Source: Anon 2008a, np).

[A]fter taking us inside a processing plant where Perch fillets are processed for export, they follow the fish carcasses as they are driven into the countryside and dumped over large areas, where they rot and become filled with maggots. It is here, in one of the film’s most poignant scenes, that we come across a woman hanging fish carcasses up to dry who tells us that her eyesight is going bad because of the ammonia from the rotting fish. The filmmakers also complete the cycle of the plastic containers in which the fillets are packaged. After showing us the businessmen who sell the containers to the fish-processing plants, we discover that wasted containers in Mwanza are melted down by street children who then sniff the liquid to become high (Source: Jones 2008, p.82-3).

About halfway into Darwin’s Nightmare there is a scene [in] which [a] meeting is being held in which a delegation of the European Union is reporting on a tour of the factories and facilities in Mwanza used to produce Nile perch fillets. As the chair of the meeting explains, the perch fillets now represent Tanzania’s largest export product. The meeting is filmed from the back of the gathering of delegates and as the chair is speaking the sound of a lorry is heard and there is a cut to a view of a street. The camera pans back up from a focus on three of the street children and it becomes apparent that the meeting is taking place on a roof terrace. Another speaker praises the world-class level of sanitation at the fisheries as the scene cuts to a shot of some dogs washing themselves in a trough. A one-legged boy who gets around on crutches, and has just been visible in the shot of the street next to the meeting, is inspecting a tin; in the next shot a similar such pot is being used to cook some food on an open fire on the beach. The shots thus move seamlessly from the meeting about the export of foodstuffs to Europe to the distribution of an inadequate amount of food to local homeless children. The cooking scene turns into a scuffle, from which some children run away with handfuls of rice and some are left with none (Source: Hughes 2012, p.262-3).

The film does not rely on narration to tell its story. It is told by the Russian pilots who bring in munitions to feed wars in Angola and the Congo, then return to Europe with tons of fillets destined for European markets. The story is told by a prostitute who sings lovingly of Tanzania and dreams of an education, by a guard at a processing plant who earns $1 a day and hopes for his son to become a pilot. Armed only with a bow and poison-tipped arrows, he welcomes the thought of a war. We also hear from a Christian minister who buries local residents who died of AIDS but still refuses to recommend condoms because it is a 'sin'. All seem powerless in a system that worships the wrong values. One Russian pilot, hoping that one day all the world's children will be happy says: 'Children in Angola receive weapons on Christmas Day, European children receive grapes. That's business but I wish all children could receive grapes' (Source: Schumann 2005, np link).

The film interviews a Russian pilot who is transporting arms into the country and flying out fish filets for European markets, while the local people starve or fight proxy wars. The gruff, husky, transporter breaks down crying: 'It's all business' (Source: Love 2008, np).

I was particularly moved by the Tanzanian prostitute's story and hearing her sing about Tanzania as being so beautiful and sweet was so poignant, juxtaposed against the rough and ready Ukrainian pilots who were paying for the drinks in the club and who would sleep with her and her friends later that night. These Ukrainians are middle-aged family men. One of them later proudly showed off photos of his daughter who was probably the same age as the young woman he callously prevented from singing. Another rather sickening scene for me was watching impressionable homeless children going to an open air cinema to watch Christian films which showed a white Jesus alongside fisherman pulling nets of fish out of the sea ostensibly to feed the hungry. Another dystopian scene shows these kids fighting over some fish they are given to cook on the shores of the lake in a rusting tin (Source: virtually_carol 2008, np link).

As Sauper informs viewers in one of the film’s several intertitles, 2 million white people eat Nile perch every day. In a stinging irony, precisely that number of Tanzanians are starving, able only to consume the fish heads and maggot-infested carcasses. … “Darwin’s Nightmare” is many things, including an environmental cautionary tale, a critique of globalization and a portrait of a community, country and continent in deep crisis. But at its most profound level it’s about the ways in which those of us on the receiving end of the supply chain routinely and unknowingly break faith with the most dispossessed and defenseless of the world. As one of the pilots says while recounting a past run in which he delivered tanks to Angola and brought back fruit from South Africa, that year African children got guns for Christmas, while European children got grapes (Source: Hornaday 2005, np link).

[I]mages of the street kids melting down the fish packaging to create glue and then sniffing it from plastic bottles to help them to sleep, shown without commentary, are interpretable as images for contemplation. No comment is made about the stark contrast between the hygienic conditions of work in the filleting factory, so heavily invested in, and the working conditions for those processing the fish frames. No comment is made about the number of people who have lost limbs and get around on crutches, or about the working woman who has lost an eye, but their movement and energy, communicated throughout the film, naturally pose questions about safety and healthcare (Source: Hughes 2012, p.262).

DARWIN’S NIGHTMARE feels like a 'film noir.' It is not an activist film which presents a problem and suggests a solution. Instead it helps shed light on a place that few of us would have the likelihood to visit and yet which is impacted by our actions or lack of action (Source: Anon 2007a, np link).

Inspiration / Process / Technique / Methodology

I could make the same kind of movie in Sierra Leone, only the fish would be diamonds, in Honduras, bananas, and in Libya, Nigeria or Angola, crude oil. Most of us I guess, know about the destructive mechanisms of our time, but we cannot fully picture them. We are unable to “get it”, unable to actually believe what we know. The idea of this film was born during my research on another documentary, KISANGANI DIARY that follows Rwandese refugees in the midst of the Congolese rebellion. In 1997, I witnessed for the first time the bizarre juxtaposition of two gigantic airplanes, both bursting with food. The first cargo jet brought 45 tons of yellow peas from America to feed the refugees in the nearby UN camps. The second plane took off for the European Union, weight with 50 tons of fresh fish. I met the Russian pilots and we became “kamarads”. But soon it turned out that the rescue planes with yellow peas also carried arms to the same destinations, so that the same refugees that were benefiting from the yellow peas could be shot at later during the nights. In the mornings, my trembling camera saw in this stinking jungle destroyed camps and bodies. Firsthand knowledge of the story of such a cynical reality became the trigger for Darwin’s Nightmare, my longest ever cinematographic commitment … To shoot Darwin’s nightmare we used a minimalist unit: my faithful travel companion Sandor, my small camera and I. We had to be very close to our ‘characters’ and follow their lives over long periods. I feel like they are an important part of my existence now. When you look out for contrasts and contradictions, reality can become ‘bigger than life’. So in a way it was easy to find striking images because I was filming a striking reality. But it was also easy to get into trouble. On location in Tanzania we could never really show up as a regular film team. In order to fly with cargo planes we had to disguise ourselves as pilots and loadmasters and carry fake identities. In villages we were mistaken as missionaries, and in fish factories managers feared we might be EU hygiene inspectors. We had to become Australian businessmen in the fancy hotel bars, or just harmless backpackers in the African bush, ‘taking pictures’. Many many days were lost in front of sweating, confused and questioning police officers, on checkpoints and in local prisons. A good part of the filming budget was wasted just paying for our freedom in bribes and fines. The national newspaper headlines and even the BBC in London declared, ‘French and American journalists kidnapped by bandits on Lake Victoria’. Since the writer Nick Flynn from NY was travelling with us, the US embassy in Dar es Salaam started franticly ringing the alarm for their lost citizens. There was no kidnapping, however, but once again we had been held back on a remote fishing island – this time accused of shooting ‘blue movies’ with naked girls. Forced idleness became a dull routine. We would sit in the merciless equatorial sun surrounded by a million Nile Perch skeletons, the local’s food, trying not to go mad.... The old question, which social and political structure is the best for the world seems to have been answered. Capitalism has won. The ultimate forms for future societies are ‘consumer democracies’, which are seen as ‘civilized’ and ‘good’. In a Darwinian sense the ‘good system’ won. It won by either convincing its enemies or eliminating them. In Darwin’s Nightmare I tried to transform the bizarre success story of a fish and the ephemeral boom around this “fittest” animal into an ironic, frightening allegory for what is called the New World Order. 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. Hearing and seeing the same stories over and over makes me feel sick. After hundreds of years of slavery and colonisation of Africa, globalisation of african markets is the third and deadliest humiliation for the people of this continent. The arrogance of rich countries towards the third world (that’s three quarters of humanity) is creating immeasurable future dangers for all peoples. It seems that the individual participants within a deadly system don’t have ugly faces, and for the most part, no bad intentions. These people include you and me. Some of us are only ‘doing their job’ (like flying a jumbo from A to B carrying napalm), some don’t want to know, others simply fight for survival. I tried to film the personalities in this documentary as intimately as possible. Sergey, Dimond, Raphael, Eliza: real people who wonderfully represent the complexity of this system, and for me, the real enigma (Source: Sauper nd, np link).

Sauper said he likes to film in Africa because 'it is more transparent, more accessible, more brutal, more ironic. If you did a film on capitalism centered on Wall Street, all you would be able to film is computer screens. Africa's ambient chaos is something I can blend into' (Source: Turan 2014a, np link).

The filmmakers are always poking around, trying to discover how cycles are completed. (On the film’s Web site, they admit that this poking around often led to their being arrested, for which they often had to bribe their way out of jail) (Source: Jones 2008, p.82-3).

[Many ] scenes involve dialogue with the filmmaker, are filmed with a handheld camera so that they both show and mean, and are both evidence of and part of an act of communication (Source: Hughes 2012, p.250).

Sauper did not play upon the power he holds as a European, an intellectual, and a filmmaker and use it agsinst the other contributors; if anything he moved around on their respective level and simply spent a lot of time in Tanzania. The footage that eventually made it into the edited version of Darwin's Nightmare represents only a fraction of the footage puled up high in Sauper's Parisian office. He made very deliberate gestures of personal respect and gratitude - such as the frequest gift of video recordings to the interviewees - even thought it was clear that most of his conversational partners do not possess adequate equipment to watch them. Notwithstanding the apparent futility of this, it must nevertheless have contributed to the conveyance of a sense of confidence in a better future, one where Tanzanian people can also enjoy more opportunities for shaping their own lives, and it led to an affection that the film bears witness to time and again. Meanwhile Sauper calls many of the contributors his friends - 'I feel like they are an important part of my existence now', he has said - and tries to help them often and with a variety of actions (Source: Russegger 2011, p.350).

Recent discussion of documentary film has sought to move away from ‘structural, semiotic or cognitive’ accounts of cultural expression in favour of ‘sensuous, existential or phenomenological’ approaches. Anna Grimshaw, for example, writes specifically about an ethnographic understanding of documentary which is also appropriate for Darwin’s Nightmare, but the shift she describes is characteristic of a broader trend in documentary theory which sees the complexity of documentary observation, without commentary but with deliberate framing and editing decisions, as arising from the placing of scenes side by side without the framework of overt analysis. This understanding of contemporary documentary highlights in particular the emotional, sensual and embodied nature of the film as artefact. Such descriptions point to the ways in which filmmakers in various traditions use the image as a means to reconnect with iconic and indexical referentiality and to underplay the symbolic. Terms such as ‘imbrication’ are also useful tags that capture the entanglement of such referentiality into networks of unexpected juxtapositions rather than causative relationships in Deleuzian-inspired thinking, modelled on organic structures such as the rhizome ... more complex and hectic film experiences, such as that offered by Darwin’s Nightmare, ... exhibit commentary-free characteristics but focus on more fraught and fast-moving social situations. Here, ... there can be a buildup of organic connectivity between scenes, a strong tactile sensibility through the placing of events side by side. How are such films to be understood? (Source: Hughes 2012, p.246-7).

As a film, Darwin’s Nightmare demonstrates the flexibility of digital filming and its potential for engaging with day-to-day life with even more spontaneity and participation than documentary has achieved before. As Rich argues, however, it is not the production circumstances that make the film so much as the decision to focus on place and on individuals whose embodied knowledge of the conditions of human life in Mwanza constitute the ‘wisdom’ of the film. Sauper draws the debates in the natural sciences about biodiversity in Lake Victoria,42 and in the social sciences on malnutrition, social and economic development in Central East Africa, out of the contribution of local people rather than experts. Thus the story of the introduction of the Nile perch into Lake Victoria is told in different ways by a factory owner and by the night security guard at the fisheries institute. The social issues that affect the town, and the settlements of fishermen around the lake that have contributed to the spread of HIV and AIDS, are discussed by a former teacher, a former street child who has achieved success as a painter, and a local pastor, as well as a woman close to death. ... Darwin’s Nightmare is characterized by its intense focus on character through observation and interview, and its use of the consequential cut which systematically emphasizes the spatial links between wealth generation and deprivation. In both of these, the camera and the microphone are used explicitly as devices to record first-hand and second-hand (or ‘witness’) evidence for scrutiny. The filmmaking process is also recorded in the form of these images and sounds. Whether particular scenes become part of the film or not, they will potentially come under scrutiny when the authenticity of the film is questioned ... What is proposed here is to show how the close scrutiny of these interviews and landscapes involves sensual, emotional and rational responses, coordinated by inferential processes that are guided by the principle of relevance. This is in contrast to documentary film theory’s attempts to identify ‘modes’ of documentary production. For one thing it is a scrutiny of reception rather than production processes, and for another it is not concerned with the ontological status of the image but rather with viewers’ beliefs about the world, including beliefs about film images, filmmakers and participants in documentary film. All of these are radically contingent in a model which asserts systematic variety in interpretation as a necessary corollary to the individual nature of brains. ... This scrutiny, then, is less about modes of filmmaking than about loosening the relationship between the film artefact and the film viewer so that engagement with the image becomes a more clearly motivated investment (Source: Hughes 2012, p.256-7).

In allowing information to be filtered through the life stories of his participants, Sauper does not appear to be aiming at exaggeration or indeed at sincerity but rather at a more complex understanding of the embodied impacts of globalization. Thus the portrayal of the fishing town of Mwanza is a montage of different acts of communication. These involve the viewer in the interpretation of spontaneous, prearranged and staged scenes guided only by minimal intertitles, which name and participate in the narrative by ironically tagging the participants. The observational strategy of the interpersonal encounters relies on open and complex processing of representations. Around the film, however, an argument is developed through marketing and critical discourse, which uses allegory or extended metaphor. Although this helps to create coherence, viewers are still called upon to make their own sense of the series of observed scenes, interventions and interviews, with the potential either to reject or indeed to develop the vision found there (Source: Hughes 2012, p.265).

The movie never seems like a director is using carefully selected footage to convince you of something, rather it plays like an interesting slide show from a friend's vacation (Source: riddledwithspam 2006, np link).

Discussion / Responses

My first reaction after seeing the movie is – God Bless me that I am not eating fish or any non-vegetarian products! (Source: Doctor 2007, np link).

Among the most depressing films ever made (Source: O’Hehir 2006, np link).

i think the movie is just a little bit depressing and very strange (Source: soundbeans 2012, np link).

Excruciating it may be, but the film is not to miss (Source: Diwas 2008, np).

'Darwin's Nightmare' ... is absolutely - if you haven't seen that, it's devastating. But it's also - there's a kind of artfulness about it (Source: Morris in Martin & Morris 2014, np link).

A few minutes into this film, the feeling that I'm witnessing one of the strongest documentaries on Africa's tragic state of affairs, has just sunk in (Source: eyalt_2 2007, np link).

Everybody should see this movie and react (Source: palawan19 2006, np link).

I just saw the documentary ... and as a consequence I feel a bit sick. The whole system with which our lives are tightly mixed up - it's just so sad. ... I don't know what to say really. Watch that movie. and try your best to make the world a better place (Source: ihatekristina 2006, np link).

This documentary was boring, and quite stupid. ... There are a lot better documentaries than this ... this was not worth watching ... you can get better information from Wikipedia (Source: kakoilija 2009, np link).

I would not recommend this documentary to anyone other the film students studying what NOT to do when making a program (Source: Anon 2005, np link).

I'm sorry to say that, but this is actually one of the worst documentaries i have EVER seen. ... This movie is absolutely unfocused, and does not know at all what it wants to tell the viewer. If you have never heard of Africa and have no idea that this continent has Social/Health/HIV/Violence/War problems then this movie might be right for you. If you haven't had your eyes closed for the last decades 90% of what this movie shows won't be new to you - and the way it's presented here will try its best to make you fall asleep (Source: AnybodyMustermann 2006, np link).

I watched this recently. While watching this I remembered those nature programs... It's funny that the world seem to be more interested on protecting wildlife than human life (Source: impalabeeper 2012, np link).

While marketed as something akin to a sci-fi/horror film about a predacious fish that overtook Lake Victoria over the last quarter century - I was thinking MARCH OF THE KILLER PENGUINS - it's little more than a formless, meandering look at poverty in Tanzania (Source: awjonesjr 2006, np link).

I saw this film for a Sociology of International Development Course. I agree... it's one of the most shocking documentaries I've ever seen. I encourage the world to watch it, learn from it, and do something in their lives to help people triumph over situations like this (Source: JessRam2o1 2009, np link).

we saw this film in school with our geography teacher.. it'S a shoking film!! when the airplane arrives to get the fishes, the airplane delivers weapons into the country!!!!!! instead of food or aid... one day, the fish will be exterminated and all the ppl there will have no future... (Source: therealTOTOfan 2009, np link).

I saw this film just now and I can`t believe what I saw. And I'm not talking only about the ecological catastrophe! A few b%st*rds are profiting from the fish-industry sending a hundreds of tons to europe and japan, where there is enough of food and people in tanzania die every day from famine .... people there eat the fishing waste ... unbelievable.What tanzanian governement is doing? what the thinking people (if there are some) in tanzania are doing? sending the un aid there?-why?????????? (Source: jerrdead 2009, np link).

It is a very difficult film to sit through, as you see parentless children getting high on glue, smoking, prostituting themselves, and looking forward to a bleak future that serves, mainly, those in the government and the white Europeans who are a part of the distribution process. The film really makes you wonder about what's on your plate and how it got there, and what you can do in the face of such radical injustice (Source: soulmanure 2006, np link).

I've watched a lot of documentaries but this was one of the most depressing ones. That isn't so bad in itself. It most likely means that this documentary tells the truth without holding back. This movie lets you know that life isn't so easy on the other side of the world. Something we might take for granted like buying some fish for dinner has dire consequences in the region it came from (Source: M 2008, np link).

Mike M. Gave it a 0: Mr. Sauper in his film inserts a number of scenes that are not natural (cooked one). This implies that inserts were done purposely so as to achieve the intended goal of cheating and tarnishing the good image of Mwanza and Tanzania in general. Mr. Sauper had an intention of showing that Nile Perch business in Tanzania is the main cause of poor living conditions and source of various ailments to the people who reside around lake Victoria (Source: Anon ndb, np link).

Joey A gave it a 10: I saw it on TV last night and at times I was almost sick. It’s movies like these that make you think that make you realize cinema and art still matter and communication can still happen in this over-media-blitzed western world. I see these perch fillets in the supermarket, all nicely wrapped and clean and pink. It makes you wonder about the stories behind all the other clinically pretty stuff we buy and consume in our air-conditioned stores. Connect the dots to the maggots in the rotting fish carcasses and the wars in Africa. At the end of the movie there’s a big storm coming. It’s like a vision of what’s coming. Darwin’s nightmare isn’t over: it’s just begun (Source: Anon ndc, np link).

A very clever, powerful and poignant documentary that is well worth watching. Yes, it starts off slowly but don't let that put you off. It is like a good novel that draws you in and lets you start to put the puzzle together instead of being bashed over the head with a sledgehammer with fast visuals and sermons. This documentary is worth it but I admit it might be too much to expect the MTV generation to sit through (Source: virtually_carol 2008, np link).

This documentary will p*ss you off and make you think. It does not give you the answers; it makes you come up with them on your own. Let's hope we come up with the right ones (Source: lastliberal 2007, np link).

Granted, the film is emotionally raw and moving, and our theatre, too, sat in still silence as the credits rolled, however, a similar reaction could be gained if the World Vision television spot was played in the theatre. Powerful? Yes. A great documentary? No (Source: laura-jane 2005, np link).

Darwin's theory is adaptation, and the movie is not about adaptation, but about intervention that destroys adaptation. so the title should be ..... aliens destroy darwins theory ..... but the film is about the ruthlessness of people, of banks, how money and affluence leads to exploitation, or perhaps how exploitation leads to affluence. bad title, great movie. the director has also produced other great videos about the misery of life on earth (Source: daniels 2009, np link).

I struggled through passages of this film. The sound was good, but the digital video was frequently shaky, and poorly composed and edited. Sometimes conversations were allowed to ramble without purpose. And at the end of it, I felt the weight of a lot of guilt (Source: igm 2006, np link).

When the doc-movie was over people stayed in their seats for minutes in total silence. It's a hard movie that will shake your mind and heart in a terrible way. poverty, diseases, abuse, and a hopeless future (Source: christianbaitg 2005, np link).

... you should see it unknowingly. Let it take you by surprise. For a very long time, no movie made me feel like leaving the theatre. But, having this policy of always giving the director a chance to either create a last-minute surprise effect or to prove himself ridiculous to an unspoken degree, I usually stay - even if I would vote zero for some. 'Darwin's Nightmare' had me moving in my seat, sweating, swallowing nonexistent saliva, squeezing my hands into each other, thinking about all and nothing. Two times I simply had to close my eyes, many times I thought I had to get up and go - not that the documentary film was bad. Quite the opposite. Formally, it was too good. That's why it was so bothering. Maybe an overly emotional reaction, but we will all have different ones. Personally, this is the type of story I cannot dissociate of, and view as a spectator. This is the world, and this is tragic. Now: we all know it. We just didn't see it like this before. Not with this cutting-edge cruelty. I could feel the tension around me, the tension inside the theatre, the discomfort that it rose. Yet, the laughter that a few purpose-made cynical scenes originated hurt like knives. I couldn't believe people laughed in such a movie (and then again, I heard people laughing during 'Schindler's List'!!).  There is no reason to laugh. A few times, actually, there are plentiful reasons to cry. This movie hurts. It's poignant to the point of being unbearable. Sad. Tragic. Violent - the story is cruel, and Hubert is cruel as well. Or realistic. He does not make it one bit easier for the viewer. Rather is the viewer allowed to suffer, to sink in shame, to open his/her mouth in awe, to see reality, the dark reality of many places exactly as it is. Besides all, presented in a very intelligent format, and with a cunning sense of fairness and discipline. It was painful. It worked on me, and I only wished it would be over. Personally, this was no film, this was a severe blow in my stomach. I wonder how will it feel to those who actually have no idea about life... 10 out of 10. How could I give it less... (Source: Ferreira 2005, np link).

I have watched this documentary several times for the subject matter and because I was so impressed by how the director was able to powerfully show the connection the developed world has on food scarcity in Tanzania and without being preachy. This is done just by building up the narrative that is relayed to you through a cross-section of local people from glue-sniffing children, a teenage artist, a night watch-man and others - it's like Orwell's unrelenting jackboot in your face only much more polite and finally, if you had not already reached this conclusion, you are left with no other alternative but to accept that capitalism is inhuman - not because you have been sermonised to but because you have seen it with your own eyes (Source: virtually_carol 2008, np link).

This is mainly roar video footage, with no comments from the director. It's not cinema, it's someone with a camera talking to people willing to talk about their lives. It's simple, it's not propaganda (I do not think the director cut footage he deliberately wanted to hide from the viewer, again i cannot believe how insane someone can be to be able to say this is leftist propaganda), and it let's the viewer think by himself. The film does not give answers. The mass arms trade is not proved, but how can it? No one involved in this at a high level would be willing to talk. This should be seen by anyone who has the slightest interest in life, it is however not a unique film, and is in the line of many other good docs. But not many directors manage to get millions of people to view their footage, and in this Sauper succeeded. I thank him for this (Source: sam_oi 2006, np link).

Europe has a lot to answer for their? complicity in the horror that has killed thousands of people and brought great suffering. Please credit the director: Hubert Sauper Hubert Sauper is a great friend to Africa and your [YouTube] clip would not exist without him. Thanks a lot (Source: Throbule 2009, np link).

A really good movie showing the capitalistic endless search for new 'pools' to extract surplus. We simply wouldn't know if there weren't documentarists like these who showed us. I've watched the movie with left and right wingers, and there was no one who wasn't moved by this documentary. We had good discussions about it. (Free trade is best?) Even though, the amount of expressions and people interviewed is quite low. There are no views of 'good' parts surrounding the Victoria Lake (there is tourism there as well). So it is biased. But still, this documentary shows the awful side of a dualistic country. Critics should show the counterpart. Viewers should balance between them to form a opinion (Source: fredy_ivar 2006, np link).

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 (Source: fwomp 2006, np link).

[Sauper's] willingness to avoid hectoring voice-overs and simply talk quietly with his subjects, adds compelling believability (Source: Turan 2006, np link).

Sauper avoids voice-over and uses sparing titles, but there’s no mistaking the film’s point of view. It illuminates the sinister logic of a new world order that depends on corrupt globalization to put an acceptable face on age-old colonialism (Source: Lim 2005, np link).

The subtitles are excellent, not just that they are black-lined which could be a model for low-budget foreign-language films, but are visible even when people are speaking English, as between the accents and sound quality it would be difficult to understand them (Source: noralee 2006, np link).

He is ... unfair to many of his informants by not bringing along a translator so they are forced to try to communicate in broken English, which of course makes them sound overly simplistic (Source: noralee 2006, np link).

Sauper is at his strongest when he sticks to what is unique here. He is weakest at his most visually manipulative, lingering the camera on the maimed, dead and dying as, to be brutally frank, the same shots could be made of other African disasters such as famine and AIDS, though those are complicating factors here as well. In terms of employed people who do benefit from the cash crop, we hear more from the well-fed company owners and contractors than the factory workers. He is unusually sympathetic to the prostitutes he interviews and really finds their humanity (Source: noralee 2006, np link).

Darwin’s Nightmare has been analyzed in terms of its truth, its aesthetics, its sincerity and its relevance, and it has been called ‘delusional’ (Source: Hughes 2012, p.250).

Since its release in 2004, [Darwin's Nghtmare] continues to generate accolades and criticisms that fall outside of conventional ideological boundaries favoured by globalisation's fans and its discontents. The film's director, Hubert Sauper has been embraced and rebuked by those claiming to promote the interests of the film's subjects. Yet the film has not yet been taken seriously as a discursive construction of particular ideologies of development, nor has it been subjected to the scrutiny necessary in order to understand the film's power to confirm, for a popular audience, much of what they think they know is 'true' about Africa and how such a representation can be both problematic and dangerous (Source: Moloney, Richey & Ponte 2007, p.598).

Sauper's documentary belongs to a new genre of sensationalist and proactive documentary films that, in ther passionate desire to send unambiguous messages or moral indignation about the consequences of globalism and the environment and to ordinary people, stretch inconvenient facts to fit their truths (Source: Kinsey 2007, p.322).

In the United States Darwin’s Nightmare has been championed by other documentarians dazzled, in part, by Sauper’s shooting his documentaries himself with a 24p camcorder under rigorous conditions, accompanied only by a sound recordist. But the production conditions are only part of the story. The late great Jean Rouch saw Sauper’s prior film and praised it as an exemplar of the “cinema of contact” he had long advocated. What Sauper offers is a reciprocity of vision that returns the gaze, repays respect in kind, and recognizes that even African villagers can be worldclass experts on their own society, life, and fate. Released in the United States in 2005–6 via a limited theatrical release, Darwin’s Nightmare is poised to enter the academic canon in coming years (Source: Rich 2006, p.112).

The many different angles of attack [on the film] relate not only to the three different levels of metarepresentation (mental, public, abstract) described by Sperber, but also to the way in which the film exploits further levels of metarepresentation in the organization of its material into observation, interviews, media interventions and intertitles (Source: Hughes 2012, p.250).

It is sad ... that the people can no longer eat the native species like cichlids. In another perverse effect of the perch as the dominant fish in Lake Victoria is that, the perch carcasses have a higher fat content, so to cook this fish takes more energy which is from firewood, from cutting down trees which in turn adds to deforestation which is already a problem… We in North America mostly get the smaller yellow perch native to our parts. And the livelihood issue is a valid one, perch exports make up about 35% of Tanzania’s exports and are a source of income for them, but you can probably guess as to who is making most of the money (Source: Anon 2007b, np link).

[T]his foreign owned fish factory is a prime example of the IMF version of 'development'. Foreign businesses own the economy so they can 'efficiently allocate capital'. There is absolutely no thought given to the development of local businesses, land reform (redistribution, not simply security of tenure reform). If the land was redistributed to African farmers, and they were supported through government services and cooperatives, no one would go hungry in Africa (Source: tigerone1970 2009, np link).

Mr. Sauper intention was to destroy Tanzania’s lucrative business on Nile Perch abroad, specifically to the European market. The film is misinforming and misleading not only Tanzanians but also other stakeholders and the World at large, in the fight against poverty. Mr. Sauper failed to mention other neighbuoring countries, which share the same lake, which also carry out Nile perch business… Part of the shots are not from the scene of 2003 when Mr. Sauper produced his film, but they are from 1992-1996 when the Nile perch business was still at the infancy stage…We strongly condemn Sauper’s film as it is intended to suppress the Tanzanian government efforts to fight poverty through Nile Perch exportation (Source: Anon 2006a, np link).

The oily sangala/sangara (as Nile perch is known in Tanzania) is not a locally-preferred food; it is an exotic species that was introduced in the lake by British colonial officers in the 1950s. It is also very difficult to handle for local food distribution - to be eaten fresh, it needs a cold chain that would make it unaffordable to most Tanzanians who may be in need of food supplies; it is a large fish, difficult and expensive to dry, smoke and/or fry, the only forms it can be traded without a cold chain.' In other words, despite what Sauper implies, it can not be used to alleviate food shortages in Tanzania. Not catching and exporting it would likely mean more households without income who would add to the count of the food deficient population. The film fosters a view of hunger as lack of food, as opposed to lack of access to food - pace Amartya Sen (Source: Moloney, Richey & Ponte 2007, p.601).

This movie just tarnish the good image of this peace loving country. ... the films lacks focus and respectability, it is quite easy to find the character anywhere in Africa and has nothing to do Darwin's nightmare or fish fillet...What a load of rubbish! (Source: nzaro 2006, np link).

Not that Sauper demonstrated a penchant for getting his facts right. His depiction of hapless 'scientists' discussing resource management issues in a local workshop was fairly indicative. But this time, the 'other' talked back. The Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation and IUCN, The World Conservation Union, replied to Sauper in their poignant public letter, dated 8 December 2005: 'What you have titled as the 'IUCN Ecological Congress' was in fact the 'International Workshop on Community Participation in Fisheries Management on Lake Victoria', organised jointly by the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization and The World Conservation Union (IUCN). Had you stayed in the workshop for more than 15 minutes, you would have realised that the workshop was in fact defining ways to devolve some of the responsibilities and rewards offisheries management to local communities. While community empowerment does not translate into poverty alleviation overnight, it is a critical initial step to improve the lives of communities. The government ministers, scientists, industry and community representatives at that meeting would have gladly informed you about the purpose of the workshop, and their view of the impact of the Lake Victoria fisheries on fishing communities in Tanzania, had you asked (Source: Moloney, Richey & Ponte 2007, p.601).

At the risk of making Sauper the hero of his own documentary - there were no heroes in Darwin's Nightmare, only ordinary people, I must say I am thankful for people like him who are willing to risk their lives to tell important stories, even if they can't solve them. I think Sauper's strength is that he feels as helpless in these matters as his films' characters. As one of the Russian pilots tells Sauper tearfully: 'I want all the child(ren) of the world to be happy, but I don't know how to do it' (Source: Fraser 2008, np).

Sauper did not play upon the power he holds as a European, an intellectual, and a filmmaker and use it agsinst the other contributors; if anything he moved around on their respective level and simply spent a lot of time in Tanzania. The footage that eventually made it into the edited version of Darwin's Nightmare represents only a fraction of the footage puled up high in Sauper's Parisian office. He made very deliberate gestures of personal respect and gratitude - such as the frequest gift of video recordings to the interviewees - even thought it was clear that most of his conversational partners do not possess adequate equipment to watch them. Notwithstanding the apparent futility of this, it must nevertheless have contributed to the conveyance of a sense of confidence in a better future, one where Tanzanian people can also enjoy more opportunities for shaping their own lives, and it led to an affection that the film bears witness to time and again. Meanwhile Sauper calls many of the contributors his friends - 'I feel like they are an important part of my existence now', he has said - and tries to help them often and with a variety of actions (Source: Russegger 2011, p.350).

Hubert Sauper's film, produced under the guise of a documentary (and categorised as such, and not 'fiction'), uses the Tanzania subject as a reflecting pool for a meditation on the big, bad West. This is executed in such a way that viewers are blinded by the incredible whiteness of being, under the guise of 'progressive politics' 'a la Michael Moore. ... [For example] The film exploits the perception that 'Africans know everything about Africa' in ways that pervert notions of perspective or authenticity. For example, the film relies on Raphael (whose surname is variously reported as Luchikio or Tukiko), the night watchman of the Fisheries Research Institute in Mwanza, to provide the appropriate assessment and analysis of the impact of international trade and fishing on Tanzania's local communities. Instead of speaking for his own condition, perhaps noting that he himself earns a salary, meagre as it is, from the fishing industry, he is cajoled into playing amateur social scientist for a filmmaker eager to 'indigenise' his own voice. Staged in darkened footage as the 'savage', the night watchman is armed with only a bow and poisoned arrows and describes how he does not fear war and must be 'ready for fights'. Yet his arsenal is clearly not depicted as prepared for 'modern' battles. As a performance of 'local knowledge', he is hired to read aloud from an article in The East African newspaper. ... Local voices that could be in contrast to the film's ideological path are consistently absent. Where are the interviews with the men and women who work in the fish factory? How can the selection of three sex workers (who appear intoxicated as they are questioned over drinks at the New Mwanza Hotel) and five street children (shown high on glue) be considered representative of the local'stakeholders' in the international fishing industry? And of the other destitute children shown cooking and fighting over food, Richard Mgamba (the journalist who helped Sauper after being told the film planned 'to market Lake Victoria and the fishing industry to the rest of the globe'), reports that they: 'were paid between Tshs 1,000/- and Tshs 5,000/- by the producers of the film and the[n] directed [to] do what they are doing, paving the way for my guest to film what they termed 'striking images'. his account is supported by the painter Jonathan and others such as Mangeu and Matekere who recall that, in exchange for cash, they were directed by Sauper on how he wanted them to act. Sauper's claim that he and his crew 'had to be very close to our 'characters' and follow their lives over long periods' should therefore be interrogated. Yet, glowing reviews in the popular press praise the director's 'admirable facility for getting close enough to his remarkably unguarded subjects' in a film 'enriched by the candor and dignity of its shockingly deprived interview subjects' (Source: Moloney, Richey & Ponte 2007, p.599-601).

In presenting a portrait of a community, Sauper runs the risk of communicating his attitude towards it and so must motivate it in such a way that it does not turn into a judgement. Historically the figure of the outside investigator has been a means through which a neutral, programmatically unconcerned stance can be maintained, a device which has been used in narrative fiction by authors as diverse as Franz Kafka and Raymond Chandler. Sauper’s questions about the famine in central Tanzania, about the quantity of fish exported, the cost of fish locally, about the street children and where they sleep, and so on, divert attention away from scrutiny of the individuals towards the broader social and economic circumstances, but of course the individuals still shine through. A hostile interpretation of the film can thus focus on the individual stories and claim a malicious intent to portray them in a bad light. The contribution of Raphaël Tukiko provoked a row over whether he was exploited by the filmmaker or whether the filmmaker was manipulated by him. What can be seen from the film, and subsequent encounters with the media in the wake of the film, is that Tukiko is an extraordinarily cooperative communicator, repeating the questions put to him and elaborating on any point that comes up. The audience capacity to read character, and an interest in doing so, is part of what the documentary filmmakers exploit. The story of Eliza also emerges without commentary and as part of Sauper’s attempts to get information out of the pilots about their cargo. Her encounters with the camera are uncomfortable. She is dragged into the frame by one of the pilots, who appears almost to bully her as she sings. She lies down on a bed and whispers her thoughts about her life and what she would like to be. Other women explain how they are drawn into prostitution through the offer of food and drink, and describe the brutality of the men. When it is reported that Eliza has been murdered, the camera records the men’s faces as they watch the footage of her from the beginning of the film (Source: Hughes 2012, p.260).

By the time the .... interviews took place the young men who feature in the film would have quickly realised how Sauper manipulated their words and deeds to fit his own agenda. Under questioning, they tell viewers the 'truth' about this documentary film and the actions of the director who shunned his responsibilities to vulnerable people. One of Sauper's comments during an interview on the ethics of free trade and filmmaking is more accurate, and pertinent, than the director intended ... : 'There isn't anything new in my movie. It's all known' (Source: Moloney, Richey & Ponte 2007, p.606).

The intention and motives of the Hubert seems totally lop-sided. The images, characters, locales, interviews are too grave and murky, dark and disturbing. He uses exaggerated ignorance as a voice to present his case. What we feel in the end is pity and sadness for Africans. We also start considering the Tanzania government and people as villainous. ... May be some westerners sitting in their air-conditioned rooms would find time to discuss and debate about the pathetic living conditions of Africans, but there would be nothing more than that. The director restrains to show himself even once on the screen - so as not to be identified among the Europeans who exploit this poor country. This Director Hubert can only survive being exploiters themselves like today's CNN and BCC media giants. Hubert did not have guts or common sense to talk to any Europeans who eat or companies who import these fish products. A totally lop-sided flimsy effort! But I understand the reasons of the same – Hubert just wanted to rake his fame, sitting and smiling with awards in his European comfort (Source: Doctor 2007, np link).

[W]hile we do not want to make light of the conditions of street children in Mwanza, their plight is not fundamentally different to that of those in other cities, where the fishing industry is not operating. Subtle omissions are replaced by a blatantly skewed translation in one of the film's rare daylight scenes when a Tanzanian working for the film interviews a group of street children by the lake. He asks one of the street children in clearly audible Swahili, Baba yako, anafanya kazi gani? ('What work does your father do?'), to which the child says Wanalima ('They farm') - translated with the subtitle 'He is on the water.' The child repeats, Wanalima. A second child is then asked, 'Is your dad also a fisherman?' The child says, 'My dad is dead.' Then the interviewer returns to the first child (whose father is not a fisherman, but was misleadingly translated into saying that he was) and asks: 'Do you want to be a fisherman like your dad?' and the child says, Sitaki ('I don't want to'). Such clear manipulation of the subtitles to make this appear to be a group of street children abandoned by their parents at the will of the global fish industry is the epitome of poor journalism. That it presumably comes from 'good' or 'progressive' intentions does nothing for the cause of any genuine anti-capitalist critique (Source: Moloney, Richey & Ponte 2007, p.602).

The film shows us in excruciating detail what is disorganizing and underdeveloping the Lake Victoria region, but it does not name it as capitalism (or as a particular type of export-oriented capitalism). Capitalism may be the name that cannot be spoken, and perhaps if the filmmakers had attributed Lake Victoria’s (and Africa’s) problems to capitalism, their film may not have won as many awards, but in the absence of an interpretive framework, the film viewer is left with a profound sadness but with little clear sense of the cause of this tragedy. In my teaching, I pair Darwin’s Nightmare with Kent MacDougall’s (2001) short piece in Monthly Review on “Lake Victoria: Casualty of Capitalism.” MacDougall’s article doesname capitalism as the cause of Lake Victoria’s tragedy and thus completes the larger cycle that filmmakers do not pursue: the one connecting the mal-development of the region to our current economic system (Source: Jones 2008, p.83).

While we are not averse to relevant criticisms of globalisation, international trade, African gender relations, geopolitics and biopolitics, we argue here that such a totalising vision of Tanzania, Africa and international development reduces gender relations, sexuality, socioeconomic change, homelessness, poverty and complicated vectors of disease transmission into stale tropes associated with Afro-pessimism. We contend that 'Darwin's Nightmare' is an ethically dubious piece of journalism that exploits the power imbalances it claims to critique (Source: Moloney, Richey & Ponte 2007, p.599).

Research-based evidence shows that fishing households have on average higher incomes than purely farming house holds on Lake Victoria. ... Mwanza is in fact well-known among researchers on issues of both HIV/AIDS and street children for two reasons, neither of which is acknowledged in the film. Mwanza is home to one of the oldest and most successful grassroots NGOs dealing with problems of street children in Africa. ... [And] is also the site of the first definitive medical research linking treatment of sexually-transmitted diseases with prevention of HIV transmission (Source: Moloney, Richey & Ponte 2007, p.602 & 603).

Daren Kinsey’s analysis of the film, from the perspective of an environmental historian, is a typical example of an expert’s response to what is perceived as a lay understanding of environmental issues. In his analysis of the film, which he describes as ‘sensationalist and even delusional’, Kinsey scrutinizes the idea that the Nile perch is an allegory for globalization, arguing that ‘The Nile perch is not a demon or a zombie. It is only one species in a long list of others that have been part of progressive state-funded and state-operated programs meant to improve and diversify freshwater fish fauna for more than 150 years.’ The most remarkable scrutiny of the film was carried out by the film historian François Garçon, in newspaper articles and in [a] book ... , in which he proclaimed his right as a historian to ‘interrogate the film like any document’. Garçon analyzes in particular the motivation for the film, claiming that it is the work of a naive European filmmaker looking at his subject from a postcolonial position, stereotyping Africa as the ‘dark continent’, failing to differentiate between peaceful nations such as Tanzania and others, and making mistakes in his attempts to forge a successful career (Source: Hughes 2012, p.250).

About halfway into Darwin’s Nightmare there is a scene which became the centre of the dispute between the director Sauper and film historian and champion of neoliberalism Garçon (Source: Hughes 2012, p.262).

As with many examples of investigative filmmaking, the evidence [of arms trading] is hard to come by in the secretive and highly secure world of international trade, and the connections made are indirect. Nevertheless, the insertion of a news report about a case where weapons were found and confiscated, an interview with a journalist who explains how easy it is to transport weapons via cargo planes flying all over the continent, and a drunken confession on camera from the pilots with whom Sauper travels, all establish that trade in food and trade in weapons are linked on the continent via the freight lines. The image is a much bolder statement than the argument as it is established in the film (Source: Hughes 2012, p.263).

The French-language advertising poster for Le Cauchemar de Darwin (and the cover of the DVD in widest circulation in Tanzania) is of three white images against a black background: the first, a sketch of a fish. he second, the skeleton of a fish with the anal fins replaced by the trigger and magazine of an assault rifle; the third, an assault rifle. The implication is that the film will show how fish somehow turn in to, or are exchanged for, weapons. If there is any doubt, then the Spanish language poster for 'La Pesa-dilla de Darwin' is more striking still, with the black background contrasting against the blood-red stencil of a fish that has the butt of an assault rifle for a tail. Reviewers have taken the bait, ... 'Africa starves because corrupt governments own the natural resources and export them to buy weapons to keep their people at bay.' This has irked the Government of Tanzania, a country that has welcomed refugees from neighbouring countries andfor many years worked hard to negotiate peace in the Great Lakes region. President Julius Nyerere, known as 'the father of the nation', gained the reputation as an international statesman in part for his efforts to these ends. His successors, particularly the current president, Jakaya Kikwete, have taken a key role in these negotiations. In a televised address from the Bank of Tanzania Institute in Mwanza on 31 July 2006, a visibly angry Mr. Kikwete argued that the film had failed to provide specific evidence link ing fish exports to the arms trade: 'One of the biggest lies in the film is that the planes that are coming to pick fish from Mwanza bring weapons that are used to destabilise the Great Lakes region.' President Kikwete asked Sauper to provide evidence linking fish exports to the arms trade, because there is none in the film. Several times in the film, Sauper asks his informants, 'What do the aircraft bring into Tanzania? Do they come empty?' No evidence is provided and at times the director is laughed at by those he asks. Still, he continues throughout the film, persistently quizzing pilots and also grilling, as James Christopher of the New York Times puts it, 'the factory managers, the fishermen, the urchins and the prostitutes.' Nobody entertains Sauper's hypothesis until finally an airman confesses to having had 'two flights from Europe to Angola with big machines like tanks'. Yet the airman makes no mention of having stopped in Mwanza or anywhere else in Tanzania. ... Undoubtedly Sauper and his promoters' sensationalisation of the 'fish-for-arms' boosted sales and has helped advertise their film. President Kikwete, by devoting his entire nationwide month-end address to 'Darwin's Nightmare', unwittingly handed Sauper the best publicity he could have hoped for. While few Tanzanians still appear to have watched the film, the national media discussed it at length (Source: Moloney, Richey & Ponte 2007, p.604 & 605).

In Darwin’s Nightmare the camera is used from the beginning to the end of the film to record responses from local people to questions about the importation of goods via the freight planes. Five-and-a-half minutes into the film, a foreman on the shore of the lake where fish is being landed and weighed is asked about the planes landing in the airport. An intertitle shows the words ‘Marcus’ and, underneath, ‘Airport police officer’. 'Marcus: They come to take every day. But they put here under supervision of who some are in charge [smiles into the camera]. Fishermen in charge. [Noise, looks up to aeroplane overhead]. Offscreen voice: What is the plane bringing from Europe? Marcus: It is empty. [Empty, Offscreen voice: Empty, coming] [Empty. Marcus: Coming empty], yes. They come to load the fish. At this stage of the film the motivation for the question is not explicitly given. The repetition of the word ‘empty’ can be interpreted as a request for elaboration, and the foreman responds by explaining what the empty planes are coming for. However, this very brief snippet of dialogue introduces the idea in the abstract of the planes coming empty to Mwanza, an idea which will be developed later in the film and which is also mentioned in much of the discourse about the film. At the same time it introduces a person who works in Mwanza who is labelled an ‘airport police officer’, a role Marcus explains as a ‘fisherman in charge.’ The connection with the airport is unclear. The filmed image reproduces the environment, the lake in the background, the noise of the air traffic, the dogs and the people, as well as gestures and facial expressions, so that the viewer can form conclusions about Marcus, his state of well being, feelings about his status, and so on. The dialogue thus takes place within a context of an extensive amount of manifest information. From the dialogue we can conclude amongst other things: Marcus is an airport police officer, and he believes that the aeroplanes come to the lake empty. From the first question we can also infer a belief held by the off-camera questioner. The questioner thinks that the plane is bringing something from Europe. From the repeated question we infer that the invisible person - who we take to be the director - is checking he has understood this correctly as it contradicts his assumption. It is a very swift exchange, but from the decision on the part of the editor to include it in the film a further inference can be made: It is the filmmaker’s intention that the viewer should be curious about what is in the plane. The dialogue has already aroused this curiosity and so the intention is fulfilled by the insertion of the conversation. At the same time, an additional process may also be in play in that we have scrutinized Marcus’s response to see if his face or manner reveal anything about what might be in the plane or if he may, as a privileged supervisor of the other fishermen, be concealing information (Source: Hughes 2012, p.259-260).

It would not have been difficult to present some fake crates containing the secret [arms] cargo. But Sauper does not need to avail himself of such tricks; with his indirect approach he proves that it is not necessaryarily a disadvantage not to be able to show everything that exists in reality. The dramaturgy of Darwin's Nightmare is based on a deliberate restriction of information because it is actually about more than reporting. Around the symbolic vacuum, as it were, that spread out in the bellies of the aircraft on the inbound flight, the space and time for disfferent considerations is created, challenging the viewers to follow their own thoughts and to take a stand (Source: Russegger 2011, p.353).

It seems that a common critique of this film is that it lacks focus and asks questions but does not provide answers. Far from agreeing that this proves lack of skill in film making, I think this demonstrates the director's analysis and knowledge of the documentary form. I felt that the filmmaker was conveying Western complicity in this by leaving us to try to put the pieces together ourselves. We thereby actually have to THINK about what he is getting at and the role we have to play in this situation. There is no voice-over in this film, which we are so used to explaining the meaning of a story to us. I think a lesson is better learned when we draw the conclusions ourselves, rather than being blatantly told how to interpret information in a documentary (Source: florine_lawrance 2006, np link).

I find the earlier criticism laughable ... and sad, in that we're so used to Michael Moore esquire films now that shove their meanings down our throats that when something comes along that makes you actually have to think ... and draw your own conclusions, everyone is up in arms (Source: newboxcrayons 2006, np link).

I do agree with one user's comment that 'a lesson is better learned when we draw the conclusions ourselves'; however, our conclusions can't be anything but poorly founded if we are presented with little relevant information from which to draw them. ... Maybe I need to watch the film a second time in order to catch some key points I might have missed (Source: MooreaMaguire 2006, np link).

This movie is listed as a documentary. However, no matter how disturbing the images are (and trust me, they *are* disturbing!), the movie raises actually more questions than it answers. Afterwards my friend and I started to get annoyed by everything that the movie did NOT tell us. I expect a documentary to be factual and objective. Factual it was, but in a very subjective way. ... the movie shows terrible living conditions. But it connects the wrong wires. It doesn't reveal the structure behind the problems. And these problems will not go away if we stop eating Nile perch. It will only create more unemployment in the towns at the shores of Lake Victoria.(Source: Koster 2005, np link).

Had this piece been named 'slice of life' I might have accepted it at face value. But this 'documentary' has nothing to do with Darwin. It has little to do with being a documentary. A good documentary presents a subject with a balanced, impartial view. We get none of that in this work. It is propaganda (and once again let me say I'm a person very far on the 'left', but I don't appreciate slanted reporting from either side.) This is a microcosm of misery... the misery of abject poverty. The same picture can be seen in almost any country in the world, if you want to look. It may be more horrific at this shore of Lake Victoria, but it is the same picture... people living lives none of us can imagine. So if the goal was to show us misery in Tanzania, it was successful. If the goal was to illuminate the disparity of the world's wealth, it was successful. But the title implies that it has a revelation to offer about how the world is functioning and how we are despoiling it. If it wishes to present that as a documentary, then it has to give a much larger picture than the sobbing of prostitutes at the loss of one of their own. Of course, it's sad. Pitiful. But what is that a result of? What should be done about it? How should we take action? ... In earlier times, this piece would have been known as 'Cinema Verite.' It would never have gotten anything but a tiny, tiny art house audience. But now, due to cable, the audience will be huge, by comparison. By tacking an 'enviromental' title to the movie, Monsieur Sauper is attempting to appeal to all of our consciences. People love to feel guilty, particularly if that attendant guilt feeling expiates their guilt. It's easy to be critical... harder to be constructive. But I shall try. How should one make a true documentary about the plight of those living on the shores of Lake Victoria? 1. Visit all three countries surrounding the lake. Talk to people of all walks of life who are affected by the lake and its fisheries. 2. Show the history of the lake, what it was before colonization, after, under the Germans, under the British and after independence. 3. Show what the impact of having the Nile Perch has been, both good and bad. Talk to people in all three countries who are positively impacted as well as those who are not. 4. Give an accurate picture of the entire region, what progress has been made, if any and what the imminent threats to both the region and the people there are. 5. Talk to govt. officials in all three countries and see what their side of the situation is, then offer factual rebuttal from those who believe the officials are failing. 6. Talk to UN officials, World Bank officials, EU officials... see what they have to say and then rebut their assertions with facts presented by people with knowledge of the area. 7. Don't play on peoples' emotions, alone. There's nothing wrong with making a movie like this and calling it 'A sad day.' There is something really wrong with making it and calling it a 'documentary' (Source: moviemaster 2007, np link).

Sauper ... has not claimed to be objective. He responded after [critic] Garçon's attack by saying that he is 'not a journalist but a filmmaker.' He said in Le Monde, 'I did not go out to show Africa as it is, but as I see it. All the films of the world are like that. Not a film in the world can say that it is objective; that's the nature of the medium (Source: Knipp 2007, np link).

The debate generated around the film has thus concerned not only scrutiny of the facts about the environmental impact of the Nile perch on Lake Victoria, and about the distribution of the economic benefits of the development of the fish filleting industry around the lake, but also about the capacity of documentary film as a form of public scrutiny, and its role within the development of transnational media to scrutinize the globalization of the world economy. In a sense, were it not for their threatening nature, the responses of political and business interests to the film indicate a healthy capacity for debate, which is one of the goals of the documentary film’s attempt to shift opinion about the benefits of international trade to Tanzania and other developing national economies in Africa. Ironically, the responses of the film critics seem to downplay the capacity for documentary to ‘make a difference’ by denying the capacity for such films to relate to truth, directly contradicting the attempts of social activist documentarians to use the medium to raise awareness (Source: Hughes 2012, p.253).

One reason for the critique of the film is Sauper’s focus on spaces associated with the informal economy of the town, although the development of an infrastructure for an internationally successful fish-processing industry in Mwanza, assisted by the European
Union and the International Monetary Fund, was and still is central to both the town and the film. By expanding the focus, Sauper makes more visible those spaces which tend to be left out of public representations of economic success, particularly those that are designed to promote further economic activity and development. This was done, as Sauper has argued, to broaden understanding of the effects of the liberalization of global markets on local communities to include the social and environmental disruption this can bring, even when there is success in economic terms. Frédéric Giraut has argued that this is an achievement of the film and a reason for it to be used in teaching about the effects of globalization on the developing economies of the southern hemisphere, including nations like Tanzania. ... Giraut’s interpretation of the film from the point of view of political geography is one example of how interpretation both for and against the film involves, as Sperber et al. put it, ‘engaging in some higher order or metarepresentational thinking about one’s own beliefs’. Giraut’s response to the complaints that the nice parts of the town were excluded involves an understanding of it as a deliberate corrective to the onesidedness of public representation aimed at liberalizing international markets (Source: Hughes 2012, p.254).

Recently, I've made some research about the film. As everything I've found pros and versus. I found a video which appears some of the africans interviewed in the film, and they said the filmdirector payed them to act, and the adding of the planes full of weapons would make 'more intereseting the film'. It's shame the bad use of information and the benefit of those who handle that wrong information. We need to be sceptical (Source: Azul 2012, np link).

Well just because someone claims it is false doesn't make it false. Should we be sceptical when someone tell us we need to be sceptical? (Source: sandokas 2012, np link).

Outcomes / Impacts

[D]ocumentaries produced for theatrical release are on the rise, as they are cheaper to finance and provide an increasingly popular alternative to feature films: Hubert Sauper’s ‘Darwin’s Nightmare’ was nominated for a best documentary Oscar in 2006 (Source: Wissgott 2009, np).

Nominated for the documentary feature Oscar, 'Darwin's Nightmare' didn't win, a situation that surprised Sauper not at all. 'It was too much for those people, they said 'I like the penguins,'' he notes dryly about that year's victory of 'March of the Penguins.' 'I make the opposite of feel-good movies: I make feel-bad movies.' (Source: Turan 2014a, np link).

Among the [International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam's] other awards, the public picked out Hubert Sauper's 'Darwin's Nightmare' as the best film from IDFA's 20-year history (Source: Mundell 2007 np).

To celebrate the 10th edition of the Festival of Documentary Film in Muscat, the Embassy of France ... has chosen to illustrate Sustainable Development issues and commenced their noble two-week campaign [with] … Darwin's Nightmare, by Hubert Sauper, to be screened today … The highly poignant documentaries all relate to the theme of sustainable development. From exploring the consequences of climate change (Home by Yann Arthus Bertrand) to the ravages made by Nile perch in Tanzania (Darwin's Nightmare) and up to the icecap where there is a chance to follow the Tara expedition on Climate Change, the documentaries give an unparalleled insight into some of the major global environmental threats being faced by the world today. They trace the evolution of these problems and some of the positive steps governments, international organisations and NGO's are taking to combat a growing and extremely deadly menace that threatens to change the course of history, civilisation and the world as we know it (Source: Jagirdar 2009, np).

One specific action [in France] called for was a boycott of Nile perch fillets, indicating that the connection made in the film between the trade in weapons and the transportation of the fish, as well as the link between famine and the high cost of food created by international trade, had been understood by audiences as directly involving them as consumers (Source: Hughes 2012, p.251).

Could 'awakening' the European consumers of Nile perch to the negative externalities of the industry stop them from consuming the fish? This may already have started if the BBC's Nick Fraser is correct; that Darwin's Night mare - 'one of the most shocking films made in recent years' - has ensured that Nile perch has been removed from French supermarkets. If so, would this possibly make the lives any better for the fishing communities in Mwanza? (Source: Moloney, Richey & Ponte 2007, p.603).

How sad that those people must go without fish (such a wholesome source of omega-3 fatty acids) just so that Europeans can enjoy this expensive fish. I don’t know if refusing to buy perch fish here in Canada would make any difference to the plight of the Tanzanians…for one thing, we probably do not import (Nile) perch and secondly, if catching perch is the livelihood of so many of these fishermen, then one doesn’t want to do anything to deprive them of it …The curse of the African people always has been their corrupt and cruel leaders. Mandela is the exception but sadly he is now a spent force.… Poor Africa! (Source: Reads 2007, np link).

In its latest report on Nile Perch, Globefish, a division of the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation, said the film had only briefly affected fish sales in the EU. Far bigger factors in the decline in Nile Perch exports - worth €90m (£61m) to Tanzania last year, down from €100m in 2004 - were overfishing and low water levels (Source: Rice 2006 np link).

Darwin's Nightmare about the Nile perch and the global arms trade was denounced by the Tanzania government and became the subject of law suits (Anon 2009b np).

The viciousness of the attacks [on Sauper & his film] was reminiscent of those on the young Michael Moore’s Roger and Me, except that Sauper had not reedited any footage or chronology. He had all his facts courtesy of African-based NGO sources. Most recently, the Tanzanian government has gone after both Sauper and his subjects in Tanzania, who have been punished with firing, arrest, and threatened deportation (Source: Rich 2007, p.112).

Two years after its release, the acclaimed documentary 'Darwin's Nightmare' has jolted Tanzania, where officials are protesting its claim of government complicity in unrest in Africa's volatile Great Lakes region. Amid charges that locals involved in the production have been subjected to harassment and threats, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete has denounced the movie and parliament is demanding a formal apology from the filmmaker. The east African nation says producer and director Hubert Sauper has unfairly disparaged it by claiming that Tanzania is a transit point for weapons that have fuelled a plethora of bloody civil wars in neighboring countries. And it wants a retraction from Sauper, who is fighting back, claiming his crew and Tanzanian participants in the film have been intimidated, accusations that now threaten to spark a diplomatic row. 'The Tanzanian government has decided to put pressure on everyone who participated in my film,' Sauper, an Austrian who lives in Paris, told AFP last week, denouncing 'authoritarian methods of another age'. 'This is an unacceptable campaign of intimidation to kill freedom of expression, to put pressure on those who could want to testify again, and to ensure there is no more of this kind of journalism,' he said. At the weekend, Austria asked Tanzania for an explanation of Sauper's claims, which include an allegation that government officials have threatened to strip Tanzanian investigative journalist Richard Mgamba of his citizenship. On Monday, press freedom watchdog Reporters without Borders (RSF) joined the criticism, condemning alleged pressure on Mgamba and others interviewed in the film about arms trafficking and the Lake Victoria connection. 'Blackmailing journalists on the basis of their citizenship, which the government is doing, is disgraceful,' the Paris-based group said. 'It is insulting and deplorable arbitrary revenge against a journalist who was simply exercising his constitutional right to free expression,' RSF said in a statement. Tanzanian authorities have angrily denounced 'Darwin's Nightmare' as a deliberate distortion of reality and slanderous to the country's image and reputation. 'The film aims to tarnish the image of Tanzania,' Kikwete said in a televised address earlier this month that sparked protests in Mwanza. 'Tanzania remains committed to peace and unity in the region and will never allow its land to be turned into a pro-war zone,' he said. Officials note the film accuses the Tanzanian military of escorting arms shipments from the lake but provides no evidence to support the charge and wrongly suggests a link between the fish industry and the spread of HIV/AIDS. 'We have no doubt Sauper just fabricated this aspect of the story to make his documentary film look more appealing to viewers,' the foreign ministry said in a statement last week. The film's distortion and misrepresentation of facts is totally unacceptable to any upright viewer,' it said. Despite the upheaval, 'Darwin's Nightmare' has scooped a raft of awards, including for best documentary in the 2004 European Film Awards (Source: Kulekana 2006, np).

On August 21, Reporters Without Borders criticized the government for threatening to deport a journalist to Kenya who appeared in the film Darwin's Nightmare. Officials stated that the film, which addresses natural resources and poverty in the Lake Victoria area, damaged the economy and image of the country. The film's director accused the government of conducting a 'campaign of intimidation' against individuals who appeared in his film, including Richard Mgamba, an investigative journalist for the Citizen newspaper. Mgamba fled Mwanza on August 4, when a demonstration against the film was organized by local authorities and police. Local authorities threatened Raphael Tukiko, a night watchman who appeared in the film, with arrest and ordered him to report to the police. At year's end there was no additional information regarding these cases (Source: Anon 2007c, np link).

Mgamba told Reporters Without Borders by phone from Mwanza that he was being threatened with deportation to neighbouring Kenya. He had been under investigation for the past two weeks and banned from leaving the town until this was completed. 'They want to strip me of my Tanzanian citizenship, even though I was born in Tanzania of Tanzanian parents.'... Mgamba fled Mwanza for Dar es Salaam on 4 August 2006 when a demonstration against the film was organised in the town by local authorities and police.  'I have been called a mercenary hired by Western media to paint a negative picture of the economy,' he said, as a result of his brief appearance in the film, where he spoke about trade between East Africa and Western countries and also acted as Sauper's Swahili interpreter during interviews. 'I defended myself in the media and I'm ready to do so in court. The action against me is an example of the government's illegal crackdown on freedom of expression. It seems to be a retreat from democracy,' he said. Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete recently denounced the film and said it gave a bad impression of the Nile perch trade with Western countries. 'The European Union representative in Tanzania told me the film had had very little effect on Europe's imports of the fish,' Mgamba said. 'I certainly never intended to make a film attacking a country that I love,' Sauper told Reporters Without Borders, 'especially as the problems I deal with aren't just those of the Tanzanian government but also of Western countries, because this is a globalised world. It's terrible to think people are in danger just because they helped with the film' (Source: Anon 2006b, np link).

[Mgamba said:] I am still the Bureau Chief for The Citizen Newspapers in Lake Victoria regions and my employer stood firmly to defend my position during the Darwin Nightmare Crisis.  Yes it is good to tell us the impact of globalization to the poor countries in Africa but at the same time you should also tell people that this is a not a zero sum game, and it has its positive impacts too. Darwin Nightmare potrayed Mwanza and the entire community of Lake Victoria regions as hopeless where people are facing acute food shortage, something which is not true. there thousands of people who are benefited in fishing industry with their number increasing from only 10,000 in 1992 to nearly 200,000 in 2005.  Overall the sector is currently supporting the livelihood of another 3 million people across the region through multiplier effects. Export has been booming and the economy is doing well but to Darwin Nightmare, this was nothing. [Q:] You said that you asked Hubert Sauper not to reveal your identity. Has there been any written contract between you and him regarding what he will publish about you? If not, how and on what did you agree then? [A:] About disclosing my identity, this is a journalism principle that should be nurtured by all journalists and it doesnt need a special agreement or contract to obey it. Since I had already requested Sauper to do so, there was no any need to have written agreements (Source: Hornlein 2010, np link).

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