Darwin's Nightmare
"Survival of the Fittest"



 
Darwin's Nightmare
"Survival of the Fittest"

 
A documentary on the effect of fishing the Nile perch in Tanzania's Lake Victoria. The predatory fish, which has wiped out the native species, is sold in European supermarkets, while starving Tanzanian families have to make do with the leftovers.


Some time 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.


Darwin's Nightmare is a 2004 French-Belgian-Austrian documentary film written and directed by Hubert Sauper, dealing with the environmental and social effects of the fishing industry around Lake Victoria in Tanzania.

It premiered at the 2004 Venice Film Festival, and was nominated for the 2006 Academy Award for Documentary Feature at the 78th Academy Awards. The Boston Globe called it "the year's best documentary about the animal world."

The film opens with a Soviet made Ilyushin Il-76 cargo plane landing on Mwanza airfield in Tanzania, near Lake Victoria. The plane came from Europe to ship back processed fillets of Nile Perch, a species of fish introduced into Lake Victoria that has caused the extinction of hundreds of endemic species.

Through interviews with the Russian and Ukrainian plane crew, local factory owners, guards, prostitutes, fishermen and other villagers, the film discusses the effects of the introduction of the Nile perch to Lake Victoria, how it has affected the ecosystem and economy of the region.

The film also dwells at length on the dichotomy between European aid which is being funneled into Africa on the one hand, and the unending flow of munitions and weapons from European arms dealers on the other.

Arms and munitions are often flown in on the same planes which transport the Nile perch fillets to European consumers, feeding the very conflicts which the aid was sent to remedy.

As Dima, the radio engineer of the plane crew, says later on in the film: the children of Angola receive guns for Christmas, the children of Europe receive grapes.

The appalling living and working conditions of the indigenous people, in which basic sanitation is completely absent and many children turn to drugs and prostitution, is covered in great depth; because the Nile perch fish is farmed commercially, all the prime fillets are sold to European supermarkets, leaving the local people to survive on the festering carcasses of the gutted fish.

At one point in the film a local preacher, asked whether he encourages condom use to prevent AIDS, responds that he does not address using condoms because having pre-marital sex is an act of sin and against God's law. Therefore he preferred to preach to people not to have sex before marriage.

As to why the local fish can't be made available to the obviously malnourished African children nearby, one fish processing factory manager explains "it is too expensive".