The film begins with a shot of a mammoth cargo jet sailing through the air and casting its spectral shadow on the still blue waters beneath it -- a visual metaphor that gathers meaning and force as the movie progresses. The cargo jet, piloted by a crew of Russians, will land in the town of Mwanza, fill its hold with 55 tons of filleted Nile Perch, and return to Europe where the fish will be eaten and enjoyed by millions of people -- all part of the daily routine of international commerce. From a distance of 30,000 feet, nothing seems wrong with this picture, but as Sauper and his crew bring the details into focus, the horrors of poverty, war, disease, and prostitution emerge.
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In such an unjust society, what's a pretty girl to do? If you're the hapless Julie (Julia Jentsch), you scrape by as a waitress in an upscale restaurant, struggling to pay your rent, chafing all the while under the glare of your snide superiors. Julie's lot only gets worse when she's booted from her apartment and, soon after, from her job. Luckily, her boyfriend, Peter (Stipe Erceg) offers to put her up in his hovel -- one he already shares with Jan (Daniel Brühl), his close friend and political confidante.
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There's already an Oscars buzz surrounding this movie.