Darwin's Nightmare

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    Darwin's Nightmare

    Le Cauchemar de Darwin

    Directed by

    France, Austria, Belgium


    107 min

    • English
    • Russian
    • Swahili


    Venice Days Toronto IFF - Real to ReelSan Sebastián IFF - ZabaltegiKarlovy Vary IFFNomination for Documentary Feature at the Academy Awards

    Some time in the 1960's, in the heart of Africa, a new animal was introduced into Lake Victoria as a little scientific experiment. The Nile Perch, a voracious predator, extinguished almost the entire stock of the native fish species. However, the new fish multiplied so fast, that its white fillets are today exported all around the world. Huge hulking ex-Soviet cargo planes come daily to collect the latest catch in exchange for their southbound cargo… Kalashnikovs and ammunitions for the uncounted wars in the dark center of the continent. spacer This booming multinational industry of fish and weapons has created an ungodly globalized alliance on the shores of the world’s biggest tropical lake: an army of local fishermen, World bank agents, homeless children, African ministers, EU-commissioners, Tanzanian prostitutes and Russian pilots.


    Show All Awards Show Less Awards
    • Winner - Europa Cinemas Label
    • NFB Documentary Award - FNC Montréal
    • Best Film - CPH:DOX
    • Grand prize - American Film Institute's Silverdocs FF
    • Best Film - Chicago Doc Festival
    • Norway Distribution Award - Oslo Eurodoc
    • Audience Award - Belfort IFF Entrevues
    • Audience Award - Thessaloniki IFF
    • Grand Prix - Docaviv
    • European Jury Award - Angers European FFF
    • Vienna Film Award - Viennale
    • Special Prize, Community Cinema Award, Robert and Frances Flaherty Prize - Yamagata IDF
    • Label Europa Cinemas - Venice IFF
    • FIPRESCI Prize - Sydney FF
    • Grand Prix - Paris Festival de l’Environnement
    • 2nd Place - Los Angeles Film Critics Association
    • Best Documentary - European Film Awards
    • Best First Film - César Awards
    • Special Mention - Karlovy Vary IFF
    • Documentary Award - Fribourg IFF
    • Audience Award - Mexico City ICFF
    • Golden Gate Award - San Francisco IFF
    • Short Film Award - Würzburg International Filmweekend

    Labels & Line Ups


    Hubert Sauper
    Hubert Sauper
    Denise Vindevogel

    Director's Statement

    The old question, which social and political structure is the best for the world seems to have been answered. Capitalism has won. The ultimate forms for future societies are "consumer democracies", which are seen as "civilized" and "good". In a Darwinian sense the "good system" won. It won by either convincing its enemies or eliminating them. In DARWIN’S NIGHTMARE I tried to transform the bizarre success story of a fish and the ephemeral boom around this "fittest" animal into an ironic, frightening allegory for what is called the New World Order. 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. Most of us I guess, know about the destructive mechanisms of our time, but we cannot fully picture them. We are unable to "get it", unable to actually believe what we know. It is, for example, incredible that wherever prime raw material is discovered, the locals die in misery, their sons become soldiers, and their daughters are turned into servants and whores. Hearing and seeing the same stories over and over makes me feel sick. After hundreds of years of slavery and colonisation of Africa, globalisation of african markets is the third and deadliest humiliation for the people of this continent. The arrogance of rich countries towards the third world (that's three quarters of humanity) is creating immeasurable future dangers for all peoples. It seems that the individual participants within a deadly system don't have ugly faces, and for the most part, no bad intentions. These people include you and me. Some of us are "only doing their job" (like flying a jumbo from A to B carrying napalm), some don’t want to know, others simply fight for survival. I tried to film the personalities in this documentary as intimately as possible. Sergey, Dimond, Raphael, Eliza: real people who wonderfully represent the complexity of this system, and for me, the real enigma.



    'Darwin's Nightmare' is also a work of art... There are images here that have the terrifying sublimity of a painting by El Greco or Hieronymus Bosch.

    A.O. Scott, The New York Times

    A fascinating cautionary tale in the guise of a documentary showing how, in the age of globalisation, things can evolve in the worst possible of unforeseen ways.

    Time Out London

    Shot in an immediate, no-frills style by a two-person crew, the film is unhurried and seemingly unstructured.

    David Rooney, Variety

    Hubert Sauper's staggering documentary is essential viewing on the survival.

    Jessica Winter, Village Voice

    Darwin's Nightmare strings together cruel ironies into a work of harrowing lucidity. It illuminates the sinister logic of a new world order that depends on corrupt globalization to put an acceptable face on age-old colonialism.

    Dennis Lim, Village Voice

    Darwin's Nightmare strings together cruel ironies into a work of harrowing lucidity. It illuminates the sinister logic of a new world order that depends on corrupt globalization to put an acceptable face on age-old colonialism.

    Dennis Lim, Village Voice

    Darwin's Nightmare is an urgent, horrific, yet at times oddly blinkered vision of the crisis of modern Africa.

    Owen Gleiberman, Entertaintment Weekly

    A howl waiting to be heard.

    Moira Macdonald, The Seattles Times

    It immerses you in its reality one toe at a time, until suddenly you are in over your head, gasping for air as the horror of the situation reveals itself in all its savage devastation.

    Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

    Darwin's Nightmare is many things, including an environmental cautionary tale, a critique of globalization and a portrait of a community, country and continent in deep crisis.

    Ann Hornaday, Washington Post

    An uncompromising portrait of how global capitalism can exploit an area's resources to the point of near annihilation.

    Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter

    A haunting, beautifully made reality check.

    Jennie Punter, Globe and Mail

    Hubert Sauper

    Hubert Sauper


    What you really search for, as an artist, is to create cinema which can give people a 'first-hand life experience.'

    Hubert Sauper was born in Kitzbühel/Tyrol, in the Austrian Alps. He lived in Great Britain, Italy, the USA, and then France for ten years. He studied film directing in Vienna (Univ. of Performing Arts) and in Paris (Univ. de Paris VIII.) and graduated with a B.A. (Mag. Art). Hubert teaches film classes in Europe and the USA. KISANGANI DIARY (1998) won numerous International Film Prizes and DARWIN'S NIGHTMARE (2004) was nominated for an Academy Award. He has also written and directed other works including ALONE WITH OUR STORIES (2000) and ON THE ROAD WITH EMIL (1993). His latest documentary WE COME AS FRIENDS was awarded at both the Viennale & Biennale this year and is currently an EFA nominee.

    Selected Filmography