Monday, September 19, 2005

Darwins' Nightmare...


Finally two days ago I saw this documentary Darwin's Nightmare. It was in all European Film Festivals last year and won some prices.. I was happy to get the chance to see it. After a useless morning at my work, made an appointment with a friend to see it at Kriterion. I'd heard very good critics from friends and professionals about it. Well.. This was one of the strongest films I ever saw in my life. From the beginning scene 'till the end it was made with a great attention.

For the people who doesn't know this film; it's basically a documentary on the effect of fishing the Nile perch in Tanzania's Lake Victoria. Don’t get the impression that this Nile perch is just a normal fish. It’s an quite big (read very profitable!), genetically manipulated and predatory fish. Naturally it wasn’t exist in Lake Victoria at all. It was artificially introduced in Lake Victoria by men in late 50’s. Fishing industry had some nasty purposes as you see. This is not the main theme of the film. The predatory fish, which has wiped out the native species in Lake Victoria, is sold in European supermarkets. Every week 500 tons of fish is imported to the European markets while starving Tanzanian families have to deal with the rests. But story is not finished yet. Every day huge cargo planes come to Tanzania to carry these fishes but they don’t come with empty hands. They carry military equipment to support civil wars in Africa. This is a movie about how colonialism, capitalism and globalism exploit the 3rd world. It’s a movie makes you shame from your humanity.

The opening scene is quite important. You see a shadow of a big plane on the lake, looks like a giant monster bird from pre-historical ages. Camera moves slowly up and suddenly you see this modern monster, a big cargo plane. The second scene goes directly to the control tower in Tanzania. You see a flight officer on work, but he is extremely irritated by a bee in the control room. The bee tries to escape but hits the windows and after a small struggle with the officer, he’s just smashed to window by a strike. Then camera zooms in to the bee’s corpse on window, while you see a cargo plane’s landing behind. And films starts.. Darwin’s Nightmare.

From this opening scene we’re introduced the first rule of evolution. This is a world where the jungle rules exist, weakest is wiped out and the strongest survives. We humans have learned to use tools, we are on the last step of evolution, we are the strongest, we are superior.

But as the movie develops, we witness the poverty of this people in Tanzania in interviews with fishermen, street children, journalists, prostitutes, priests, villagers etc. You realise how their life changes after these economical investments, how they loose their country and culture once they had. We witness how global economical purposes destroy a culture, natural resources and we start to doubt: Are we really that superior? The system we’ve created destroys the ecological, economical, social and moral values. The survivor of the fittest eliminates the weakest but at the end maybe there will be no earth left to live. Maybe we are really on the last step of the evolution but this is not a step as we think!

Our civilization (ehhm, the white civilization) develops but in a mean time it destroys its own standing ground as well.

Darwin’s Nightmare is far away from provocative and manipulative way of documentary making (a la Michael Moore!). The way that it's filmed is technically also great. But unfortunately it doesn’t try to prove his points, that’s the only down point. It just shows the reality as it is by interviews and clever shots. Conclusions are up to you. But sometimes even one small thing is enough to see the big picture. As a Russian pilot, who was bringing military equipment to Angola and on his way back would pick up grapes from Johannesburg to Europe, told in the movie in his interview: “Children in Angola receive weapons on Christmas Day, European children receive grapes”.

I have a problem to see this movie as a documentary, it's a horror. I don't know but this is not Darwin's Nightmare after all, it's our own!

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