Darwin's Nightmare

In the 1960s, a bucketful of perch was dumped into Africa’s Lake Victoria, a body of water the size of Ireland. (It’s the largest source of the Nile.) Forty years later, filmmaker Hubert Sauper, armed with his video camera, journeyed to Tanzania, one of the three troubled nations that border the lake, to record the tragic fallout from that intrusion of nonnative fish. Darwin’s Nightmare is an urgent, horrific, yet at times oddly blinkered vision of the crisis of modern Africa. The Nile perch devoured the other species in the lake, and a ruthless European fishing industry grew up around it. Tentatively, like a spectator tiptoeing through a hot zone, Sauper shows us villagers as they scavenge piles of maggot-infested fish carcass (the filets are sent off to Europe), and his talks with guards and industry officials reveal that the planes exporting the fish arrive stocked with illegal arms, thus stoking the region’s civil wars. One of this year’s Oscar nominees for Best Documentary, Darwin’s Nightmare points an all-purpose finger at globalization, yet the movie, as raw and vivid as it is, meanders terribly and — bigger problem — never hints at how the disasters it shows us are rooted in Africa’s colonial past.

Darwin's Nightmare
  • Movie
  • 107 minutes