DARWIN’S NIGHTMARE

The much criticized film ‘Darwin’s Nightmare’ continues to have repercussions. (It was reviewed in the last issue of TA – Editor).

Christian leaders have urged the government to review its policy on licensing of film production. Bishop Charles Gadi of the ‘Good News For All Ministry’ condemned the film saying it not only demeaned the country’s culture and values but also endangered peace. He said 43 sects under his leadership supported the statement by President Kikwete condemning the film. “The government has to beware of film makers who have ulterior motives,” he said.

People who were interviewed in the film have been heavily criticized. Raphael Luchiko, a watchman with the Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute (TAFIRI) speaking to members of the Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Environment, who had visited the institute, said that he had participated blindly in the film because of what he described as tricks that the director used to get people to participate. Amidst a hostile audience of MP’s who asked if he had yet been sacked, Luchiko, a former army man, calmly narrated the way he had been co-opted into the film. His bosses had instructed him to give Hubert Sauper, the Austrian Director, the support he needed because he spoke English. “We visited various beaches along the lakeshore” he said. “Frankly speaking, I wanted to do better so that I could be promoted. I didn’t know Sauper’s intentions. I considered him a researcher like other wazungus who come here frequently,” He added: ”Earlier, Sauper and his colleague were staying in town and asked me to take them to the fish landing sites. I advised them to stay at a guest house here, which they did it until they finished their job.”

The MP’s then demanded that the management explain why they helped Sauper to do the documentary. Acting Director of the Mwanza station, Enock Mlapoli, disclosed that the filmmaker acquired the requisite permits from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism and TAFIRI was to be there to welcome the visiting scientists. The MP for Kahama intervened and said the watchman and the management had been pawns in a scheme they were not a part of. The MP’s later withdrew their criticism of Luchiko.

The London-based magazine ‘JAMBO’ (September-November) was also hostile. It wrote: ‘Deliberate efforts were being made in various quarters to defeat Tanzania’s efforts to project a positive image of the country and ‘Darwin’s Nightmare’ had damaged Tanzania’s reputation by highlighting ‘exaggerations, half-truths and outright lies.’ The magazine quoted President Kikwete as saying Tanzania remained committed to peace and unity in the region and would never allow its land to be turned into a pro war zone.

The film has also attracted interest in the international press. The London Guardian pointed out that it had been nominated for best documentary at this year’s Oscars. In response to a statement that the film had affected sales of Nile perch in Europe, an FAO offical said that sales were down from a value of £67 million in 2004 to £61 million in 2005, but that this was more due to overfishing and low water levels than to the film.

And a film on Tanzanite mining.

Another new film is also stirring up controversy. The Guardian reported in September that a film entitled ‘Gem Slaves; Tanzanite’s Child Labour’ about the use of child labour in the tanzanite mines at Mererani near Arusha. Some tanzanite dealers had accused the regional authorities of inability to foresee negative consequences of this ‘tainted’ documentary. In 2005, the Information Services Division had issued a permit to two people, whose nationalities could not be immediately established, to make the film which was launched at the UN HQ in New York. The dealers said the film makers wanted the world to believe that over 4,000 children aged between 8 and 14 years, were employed at Mererani. “How did they arrive at that figure?” The International Labour Organisation (ILO) is supporting projects against child labour in the area under its world-wide International Programme for the Elimination of Child Labour.

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