Documentary Review: Darwin’s Nightmare

Darwin’s Nightmare is a controversial film about the effects of globalization. The more specific it’s about the trading practices between a company from the Ukraine gathering Nile perch, a type of fish, from lake Victoria from Tanzania. The film shocks, it appalls, it is thoughtful it covers multiple angles in order to show the devastating effects that this trade agreement is having on the local population. People argue whether the problem is real considering the complex nature of the problem presented in the film, could it just be a problem of narrative frame? Sure it looks bad if we look from the plight of the villagers, but if we choose a different perspective wouldn’t we see the grand benefits from this exchange? It’s all just a bad spin. The problem with this argument is that Tanzania faces real problems. Its poverty is real. The economic system based around the Nile perch, which can no longer be afforded by local people because of its trade value abroad is real. The fact that only people abroad are profiting from this exchange is very real. If all these problems are real and they are multi-layered problems that are complex and interwoven, then how can we address such problems? What is the right way to address such problems? I believe the right way to approach the problems that Tanzania is facing in the film is to first view it economically. This way you can see a clear sense of who to blame and why.

In the beginning of the film a plane lands on a small Tanzanian airport. The airplanes are supposedly empty. What they take according to the pilots and the local inhabitants that are interview is the fish. The problem posed by this exchange outright is an economic one, because this fish from this local river is now being value by something overseas with a higher currency than the Tanzanian currency the value of the fish is now up. It is now expensive to attempt to buy such a fish and no one has that kind of money in Tanzania. Not even the fishermen are able to afford the very fish that they catch. The economy of Tanazania is based around this fish. A fish that no one is able to afford except for foreigners in their own countries because of this displacement of value a systemic change in the way of finding work, getting acceptable education, poverty, hunger, medical care are all influenced by this trade agreement. All of these things are not available for the local inhabitants of Tanazania because the exchange between the Nile perch for a few factory jobs only benefits the Ukraine company that is taking it.

Tanzania is no perfect country. You can’t sit back and look at this specific event and say if only this didn’t happen then they wouldn’t have any problems. That is an incredibly credulous statement to make. I’m sure Tanzania had problems before the Ukrainians entered the country. The question is to what extent has the situation been exacerbated by this economic system and how has it withheld flourishing from people.

Within the film you have a good idea of what a large percentage of Tanzanians have to go through in their daily existence. There are children orphaned living on the street, always in constant danger of any individual who so desires to hurt them. They’re always in need of food and shelter to forget about these trouble they huff glue that they heat up in the beach so they won’t care about their current problems. Fishermen are paid very low wages to catch fish and very few fishing jobs are available. You see that many people have aspirations to be educated, but don’t have enough money are willing to do anything to get money. Most take more than one job that pay barely anything in a currency that is essentially worthless. Many women are prostitutes who service the needs of traveling men, mostly European pilots, which is a profession fraught with danger. Near the end of the film you find out that one of the women is murdered by one of the men that she was servicing. It isn’t just European men who attack prostitutes. There is a culture in Tanzania that find it acceptable to beat prostitutes after they’ve had sex with them. Why, is something the film only hints at, but it can be reasonably inferred because of their willingness to do anything for money they should also accept whatever physical violence that comes their way as a matter of consequence for their willingness to please. You see this in the camps that people are forced to live in. The director quickly pans to a sign that says it’s ok to beat a prostitute after you’ve had sex with her.

Another problem that is hinted at in the beginning and is eventually brought forward as a subject explicitly in the film is the gun trading that’s going on between the European companies and certain African armies you are currently undergoing conflicts in different countries. The reactions to such statements are initially denied by the pilots that they’re carrying guns, until much late where a pilot talks about the differences between children in his country and a specific African country the company he works has trade relations with. The difference between the countries is that African country on Christmas their children had guns unwrapped, while Ukrainian children ate grapes.

There are many problems that are faced in the film, but you much be actively ignoring the obvious if you don’t see the economic issue at root at many of these key issues. That an answer to these ever-growing problems will have to try and face the economic issue to try and change the course of the country.

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