Galapagos Affair, The: Satan Came to Eden–Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfin’s Original Feature

A tale of idealistic dreams gone awry, The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden is set in the brutal landscape of the Galapagos Islands.

This original, strange film interweaves an unsolved 1930s murder mystery with remembrances of present day Galapagos pioneers (Europeans, Americans and Ecuadoreans who settled on the Islands between the 1930s and 1960s).

It features the voice performances of international stars Cate Blanchett, Diane Kruger, Connie Nielsen, Sebastian Koch, Thomas Kretschmann, Gustaf Skarsgård and Josh Radnor.

The story serves as a parable about the search for paradise — about what happens when individualists settle on the same small island seeking their distinct notions of Eden, which clash with other ones.

Vet producers Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine have previously made the docymentary, Ballet Russes (2005) and Something Ventured (2011), which premiered at Austin’s SXSW, and then played at festivals before being broadcast nationwide on PBS.

Directors Statement

In the summer of 1998, we were hired as cinematographer and sound recordist for a project in the Galapagos Islands.  There, we discovered a book about the Islands’ little-known human history, which contained a chapter titled “Murder in Paradise” and introduced us to Dr. Friedrich Ritter, his companion Dore Strauch, the Wittmer family, the Baroness, her lovers and the mysterious events that took place on Floreana Island in the early 1930s. Our excitement grew when we learned that Margret Wittmer – then 95 years old – was still living on Floreana.  Our guide arranged for us to meet Margret but warned that she would not talk about the mysterious events that had occurred on Floreana. This turned out to be the case, but just as we were leaving, Margret looked closely at us and made a statement that would haunt us in the years to come:  “En la boca cerada, no entran moscas,” or “A closed mouth admits no flies.”

We became obsessed with the Floreana story and knew immediately that there was a great film inherent in it, but we were stymied about how this story could be told in a documentary.  Years later, we heard about a hidden archive at USC that was rumored to contain 16mm film footage from the 1930s featuring all of the protagonists in the Floreana mystery.  Excitedly, we made a trip to USC where we found a room full of 16mm film reels in varying states of disintegration, and began taking on the responsibility of transferring them to a more stable medium.  We then entered a long research phase before travelling back to the Galapagos in the spring of 2007.  We expected to spend the bulk of the trip on Floreana, but first we stopped on the nearby island of Santa Cruz.  While there, we were introduced to several long-time settlers and their descendants, known as “Galapaguenos”, and we discovered that their experiences in many ways reflected those of our protagonists on Floreana.  We saw that their stories could both provide context for the murder mystery and amplify many of the themes that had come to the fore during our research.  In short, our film was expanding beyond a “whodunit” and into an exploration of humanity’s perennial search for paradise.  And indeed, it was going to take on the same sort of multi-character narratives that had worked so well for us in BALLETS RUSSES, KIDS OF SURVIVAL and other earlier documentaries we’d made.