Hubert Sauper’s film, Darwin’s Nightmare (2004, 106 mins, colour DVD), examines the 1960s experiment that introduced Nile Perch fish into Lake Victoria, the largest African lake shared by Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
A voracious predator, the Nile Perch extinguished almost the entire stock of the native fish species in Lake Victoria. 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 of Kalashnikovs.
This booming multinational industry of fish and weapons has created an ungodly globalised 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.
The idea of Sauper’s film was born during research for another documentary, Kisangani Diary, 1998, which follows Rwandese refugees in the midst of the Congolese rebellion. In 1997, he witnessed the bizarre juxtaposition of two gigantic aeroplanes, both bursting with food. The first cargo jet brought 45 tons of yellow peas from America to feed the refugees in the nearby UN camps. The second took off for the European Union, weighted down with 50 tons of fresh fish.
He met the Russian pilots and they became ‘kamarads’. But soon it turned out that the rescue aeroplanes with yellow peas also carried arms to the same destinations, so that those refugees who were benefiting from the yellow peas could be shot at later during the nights. In the mornings, his trembling camera saw the jungle of destroyed camps and bodies. This first-hand experience of such a cynical reality became the trigger for Darwin’s Nightmare, his longest ever cinematographic commitment.
‘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’ –Herbert Sauper
Sauper was born in a village of Tyrol, Austrian Alps. He lived in Great Britain, Italy, the USA, and for 10 years in France. He studied film directing in Vienna (Univ. of Performing Arts) and in Paris (Univ. de Paris VIII.) and graduated B.A. (Mag. art). Hubert teaches film classes in Europe and USA. The last two documentaries he wrote and directed were awarded 12 international film prizes.
On The Road With Emil
(1993, Documentary, Austria, 30min 16mm)
So I Sleepwalk in Broad Daylight
(1994, fiction, Austria, 55min, 16mm)
(1995, Documentary, Russia, 30 min, for TV)
(1998, Documentary, France/Austria, 45min, 35mm)
Alone With Our Stories
(2000, Documentary, France, 60min, DigiBeta, for TV)
As an actor, he has played in several shorts and two feature length films: In The Circle of The Iris (dir. Peter Patzak, with Philippe Léotard) and Blue Distance (dir. Peter Schreiner).
Park Nights 2009
Park Nights is an annual series of events staged every Friday night in the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion. The 2009 programme included music, theatre, performances, talks and film screenings. The season culminated in October with Poetry Marathon, the latest in the Gallery’s acclaimed series of Marathons, conceived by Hans Ulrich Obrist, Serpentine Gallery Co-Director.
All events were held in the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2009, designed by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of SANAA.