© Arsenal Filmverleih GmbH

Darwin's Alptraum (Darwin's Nightmare)
Austria/Belgium/France/Canada/Finland/Sweden 2004

Opening 17 Mar 2005

Directed by: Hubert Sauper
Writing credits: Hubert Sauper

Tanzania’s Lake Victoria was irreversibly altered when someone put Nile perch into the water. This new species killed off almost all other fish, to rule supreme in the world’s second largest lake. Because there is a huge European market for Nile perch filets, farmers left their fields to fish. New factories opened where thousands of workers now cut and pack the best pieces for export. Every day Russian pilots land their cargo planes on Mwanza’s rudimentary landing strip. After a few days in town, each one takes off for Europe with 500 tons of iced fish. Since Tanzania is suffering from famine, the fish carcasses, heads and bones, are loaded onto trucks and driven inland where the poor smoke them for dinner. Women migrate to the town to pleasure the pilots ($10 a customer). Unprotected street children melt Styrofoam fish containers over an open fire and sniff the glue produced. Thus, a new evolutionary chain is created, with the only missing link being confirmed information about the cargos brought into the country before picking up the fish. Unconfirmed but suspected is that the planes carry arms for Angola. Director Hubert Saupers travelled light (just one friend and a small camera) and talked to everyone from the one-legged orphan boy to the prostitute who wants to learn computer skills to the CEO of the fish factory. It’s amazing how the English language controls international communication, much like the Nile perch the commerce. It was long, tedious work, spent waiting for film opportunities and bribing officials. They had to pretend to be pilots, businessmen, etc., in order to gain access. This documentary won the 2004 European Film Prize, as well as five other prizes in Venice, Montreal, Copenhagen, and Paris. Do not miss it and note how carefully you investigate the next fish you fry. (Becky Tan)

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