» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]


 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum

August 29, 2007
Penguins are a lot cuter than Nile Perch and starving Africans. That, and an apathetic public, must be the reason that March of the Penguins beat out Darwin's Nightmare to win last year's Academy Award for Best Documentary. Not that any film's merits should ever be judge on the basis of such a meaningless award, but the artistic caché that the Oscars lack is more than made up for by an increased visibility and the guaranteed wider release that come with an Academy Award win. Although, in this case, I'm not sure that even the draw of the nipped and tucked Oscar statuette would have done anything to make people take their blinders off and see Darwin's Nightmare, a film that can truly be described as a descent into hell.

Darwin's Nightmare concerns itself with documenting the inhabitants of the villages on the coast of Lake Victoria, in Tanzanian Africa. Most, if not all, of these villages' economies are based on the capture and exportation of Nile Perch, fish which were introduced to the lake in the 1950s. Completely destroying the lake's ecosystem as invasive species are known to do, the perch population exploded and in the process decimated the native fish populations. Darwin's Nightmare focuses on the consequences of a huge demand for perch in Europe on the Tanzanian natives, who are one of a limitless number of people on the losing end of the social and economic Darwinism that has circled the globe with free markets and capitalism.

The repercussions of European fish menus are devastating. Planes fly in and out of Tanzania daily, their holds packed with fish fillets, while millions of Tanzanians fade into the African landscape below, universally suffering from starvation. In one of the most inhumane sequences ever captured on film, the cargo bed of a truck is filled at a processing plant with leftover fish carcasses, which are dumped on the ground in a local village. The images of malnourished women and children as they scavenge the maggot-infested remains for anything edible should be mandatory viewing for any politician unwilling to finance international humanitarian aid. And the degradation captured in Darwin's Nightmare goes beyond the frames of hungry eyes watching tons of food fly out before their very eyes; men leave their inland villages to fish on the shore, creating a demand for prostitution and the perfect climate for rampant HIV infection. As is usually the case in such situations, the children in Tanzania are hit the hardest. While a representative for the European Union praises the conditions and efficiency of the fisheries, a group of street orphans fight - quite literally - for a meager scrap of food before falling asleep in an alley, their senses lulled from sniffing glue. Even the mind-numbing glue is tied to Lake Victoria's economy of Nile Perch; it is made from the plastic used to wrap the fish.

"I could make the same kind of movie in Sierra Leone, only the fish would be diamonds, in Honduras, bananas, and in Libya, Nigeria or Angola, crude oil." -- Darwin's Nightmare director Hubert Sauper.

Unlike most of the so-called documentary films making the rounds these days, Darwin's Nightmare is an objective account of an atrocious situation. Rather than having a pre-formulated opinion that steers the direction from the start, and without a blowhard director prominently factoring himself into the story, the makers of Darwin's Nightmare conducted interviews and gathered footage that speak for themselves. The film truly does document a situation, and then allows viewers to come to their own terrible conclusions. Of course no documentary is ever completely impartial - simply seeing the situation as a problem or a disaster is a judgment in itself - but Darwin's Nightmare achieves a deeper emotional resonance than most by affording its subjects the courtesy of allowing them to speak for themselves.

SEE ALSO: www.darwinsnightmare.com

Kevin Alfoldy
An aspiring global adventurer who cut his teeth on the sandy beaches and dirty bitches of Southern California, Kevin Alfoldy now spends his non-vacation days in Brooklyn, New York, where he occasionally finds the time to rub the crust out of his eyes long enough to contribute reviews and feature articles for LAS. A longtime staff member, Kevin also captains the tattered, often half-sunk raft of EPmd, our irregular column of EP reviews.

See other articles by Kevin Alfoldy.



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