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Reviews of Darwin's Nightmare
[quote]THE TIMES UK
"Billed as a study of the Nile perch, a ruthlessly effective predator introduced into Lake Victoria 30 years ago, Darwin's Nightmare is in fact hardly about that at all. True, these giant fish are a constant presence in Hubert Sauper's sobering documentary, but the focus is not the lake's ecosystem but the personal stories of those who work in the fishing, filleting and transport industries that have colonised the Tanzanian shore.
Every day, vast Russian planes arrive in Mwanza airport in the north west of the country, leaving with a daily cargo of 500 tons of Nile perch destined for the Russian and European markets. What these planes carry on their way into Africa is a mystery that nobody wants to talk about, until a solitary, subdued pilot admits that he flies tanks and other weapons into Angola. That's where the real money lies. The fish are simply a bonus that fill up the planes on the flight back to Europe.
Most of the local people involved with the Nile perch have no idea about the hardware passing through their country. Many are grateful to the industry for the employment it provides, but it attracts domestic problems too. The job hunters flooding into the area encourage the spread of AIDS, while the large number of men with a little cash in their pockets and nothing to spend it on allows prostitution to flourish.
The cruellest irony is that while so much fish is exported to Europe, Tanzania itself is struggling to avoid famine, so a secondary industry has grown up drying and roasting the decayed, discarded fish carcasses, salvaging what nourishment remains. How much blame can be pinned on the fishing industry and how much should more properly be attributed to Africa's wider problems is open to question, but this is a desperately sad story, told by people who accept their plight with astonishing serenity. It is a great injustice that not all of them live through to the end of filming."
Hubert Sauper's staggering documentary is essential viewing on the survival of two ruthlessly fittest species: the Nile perch, which quickly annihilated almost all other fish life in Tanzania's Lake Victoria after its artificial introduction in the '60s, and the omnivorous beast known as winner-take-all global capitalism. Cargo planes descend on the region with weaponry
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