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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Darwin’s Nightmare (review)

Oscar nominee for Best Documentary Feature

It’s kinda like science fiction — one of those post-the-collapse-of-nature dystopias of the 1970s — except it’s real. Documentarian Hubert Sauper uses a startling subtlety to examine the long-term sociological effects of one bone-headed environmental misstep: the introduction of the Nile perch into Lake Victoria in the mid 20th century. The perch decimated the other fish in the lake… and as a side effect, destroyed the local communities, too. Oh, sure, the perch is Tanzania’s biggest export to Europe, but the economic colonialism that comes with the perch industry has devastated the native societies who supply workers for the fisheries and the processing plants. Sauper catches disturbing footage of Tanzanians left to scrounge among the discarded fish heads and guts for sustenance while the tasty and nutritious bits head off to Europe to fetch a tidy profit for the exporters… who are other Europeans, of course. Drugs, violence, despair — this is the legacy of the Nile perch. It’s worse than that, too, and Sauper’s decision to leave much of his point to insinuation and implication may cause some to overlook the film’s power. Those who pay attention, though, will find layers of grim horror.


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MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb
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