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Featured Documentary

Darwin's Nightmare (2004) 107 min.

Synopsis

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 is fished and processed for export, all the prime fillets are sold to European supermarkets, leaving the local people to survive on the festering carcasses of the gutted fish. As to why the local fish can't be sold to the domestic market to counter the impending famine (local news reports relayed in the film indicated Northern and Central Tanzania were facing famine), one fish processing factory manager explains "it is too expensive".