"Darwin" is a beautiful, elegiac work with unexpected impact and meaning.
A trip through the Mojave Desert inspired documentarian Nick Brandestini to seek out a "living ghost town" to discover why people would reside in such a place and to learn their stories. He found it in Darwin, a once-rowdy Death Valley silver mining town that in 1877 boasted a population of 3,500 but soon went bust.
With a population of 35, Darwin exists without a government, church or children. Its only neighbor is a military base, and for its water supply the town depends on an aging gravity-fed waterline that descends from the mountains where top-secret weapons testing takes place. Darwin has a makeshift look and feel, yet a number of its residents have comfortable homes amid vast desert vistas.
The time Brandestini and his colleagues spent winning the trust of the locals has paid off with a film of understated power and deep resonance that touches upon universal themes of survival, self-discovery, community and the paradoxical nature of civilization itself, which can at once seem enduring yet also quite fragile.