Planet in Focus: Darwin [2011, Nick Brandestini]

1x1.trans Planet in Focus: Darwin [2011, Nick Brandestini]

In the 1950’s, the town of Darwin was a thriving, raucous and kinda dangerous mining community in California’s desolate Death Valley. After the mine was shut down, re-opened, and shut down again, the population dwindled to just 35 souls. With almost no infrastructure, no church, no jobs, and no government presence save the post office, the people of Darwin were left to fend for themselves.

“If they were to [take away my unemployment cheque today] I’d turn my life over completely to crime. For serious, I’d turn it over completely. I’m a pretty smart boy, I’d be a pretty good fucking criminal.” – Darwin Resident Robin

As you can imagine, a town of 35 people will collect its fair share of colourful personalities. There’s an ex-miner with a talent for art, a postmaster with the only job in town, a 20-year old transgendered youth, some pagans, and some nihilists who are convinced the end is nigh. Oh, and an anarchist that buries rifles in the desert in an anticipation of the apocalypse. Say what you will about the people of Darwin, but when Skynet makes the first move, they’ll be the ones that survive.

“Charles Manson? Well, he’s definitely strange… maybe even nuts … I don’t know, I have mixed feelings about Charlie Manson.” – Connie

“Charlie Manson is a piece of shit and he still is. I met the man and he’s a piece of shit.” – Hank (Connie’s husband)

Although this doc starts off a little slow, it quickly picks up speed as you get to know the inhabitants of the town. It’s an honest look into their lives, equal parts of sad, touching and funny. You may shake your head in disbelief at some of the things they say, but you can’t help but get drawn into this quirky little town.  The pace and the story-telling is bang on, and the one liners alone are worth the price of admission.

Darwin was featured at Toronto’s Planet in Focus film festival on Oct 15th.

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Posted on by Mark in Planet in Focus

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