If you couldn’t find the town of Darwin on a map, nobody would blame you. Located in Death Valley, California, the town has a population of 35. Although small in size, Darwin has a very colourful past, and plenty of interesting locals. Director Nick Brandestini takes viewers into this small town and sheds light on the history of this once bustling mining town, as well as sharing the stories of the people who live there, in his documentary, Darwin.
Small towns are always full of fantastic stories. Residents usually know every other person in town, and it doesn’t take long for news to stretch from one side of town to the other. There’s typically a common bond between neighbours as well, something that connects everybody who finds life in a small town appealing. When it comes to Darwin, that bond is much closer than anywhere else. Small town life is one thing, but a town in the middle of Death Valley, bordering a top secret military base, populated by only 35 people is another. Each resident is quite happy to be living so far from what the rest of us would call a normal city, but there is an overwhelming sadness that seems to have brought each person into town.
Escape is the underlying theme in the film, as each resident tells their story of how they came to live in Darwin. Some fled a past filled with violence and prison life, others found that they couldn’t live in a large city, or that there was nothing there for them. Some people just seem like they came to Darwin and just never managed to leave. In each story, viewers can’t help but notice that the town of Darwin was a way out for everyone. A place where every person is accepted for who they are, and not what they’ve done.
Of course, all these people wouldn’t be living in Darwin if they weren’t a little eccentric. The stories the residents share are touching and funny, and some of the ideas they have for the future of the country seem a bit outrageous, but that’s just life in Darwin. The more we learn about each person, the more surprising things become though. Talent and skill aren’t lacking in the small town, and it’s hard to understand how some of the residents haven’t become famous. One resident comments that Darwin has more wasted talent than any other town in the country, and they may be right. It doesn’t seem like anyone is interested in life outside of Darwin though, but maybe this documentary will show the world what they all have to offer.
At first, Darwin is a bit slow. There really doesn’t seem to be anything too exciting going on. It’s when the film scratches just below the surface that things get very interesting. As each person reveals more about their life, viewers start to understand why anybody would call Darwin home. Although each resident may have started out quite normal, each life story could easily be a film on its own. This film will leave viewers wondering what the people in their neighbourhood are capable of, and it shows us that just because a person seems to live the simple life, that doesn’t mean they aren’t one of the most extraordinary people in the world.
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