By Dolly Kapoor (USA)
Thousands have lived without love, not one without water. It’s no secret that our fresh water supply is dwindling. Soon, we will be paying large amounts of money to get “bottled water” from companies that will monopolize water. Irena Salinas’ documentary film FLOW, short for For the Love of Water, deals with attempts at privatization of water infrastructure. The film won the Grand Jury Award at the Mumbai International Film Festival and the Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary at the United Nations Association Film Festival. While her film is alarming, it is empowering at the same time. This film mercilessly dismantles our assumptions about water policy in our nation. Approximately 70% of our fresh water supply goes towards agriculture, 20% towards industry and a mere 10% for human use. According to the film, nearly two million people in the world die each year because of contaminated drinking water. Additionally, the chemicals that were used in warfare are finding their way into many organisms through our water supply.
Irena Salinas’ documentary opens eyes worldwide about the global crisis we face as Earth’s freshwater supply diminishes in front of our eyes. We follow Salinas’ directorial lens from rustling waterfalls to glistening glaciers as she tells us about the growing disasters worldwide. The film represents the direction we are headed as a nation where one of our most valuable natural resource, water, is being privatized and affected by human abuse. The film exemplifies that if we don’t change our ways, we will no longer have fresh water for drinking purposes and Earth will become uninhabitable and humankind will cease to exist. The film points fingers at big corporations such as Nestle, Vivendi, Thames, Suez, Coca Cola, and Pepsi. Many countries worldwide are being affected by this growing controversial calamity of decreasing freshwater supply. Salinas’ lenses takes us on a world adventure to see the areas that are most affected by the lack of clean water supply.
In India, a new dam has many negative effects on the Ganges River and bountiful amounts women stake out for years on end trying to get Coca Cola to move their project elsewhere. Not only was the company dumping their lead tainted toxic waste on crops; they were hindering their rights to fresh water. The management of the company justified this by saying that they provide them with free fertilizer for their crops and that these people should be grateful to them because they are helping their business.
In Bolivia, there is a river that runs red with animal blood because the big companies cannot dispose of remains properly. Furthermore, instead of cleaning it up, they cover it with concrete slabs, which cause all the toxins to flow into various nearby rivers and streams.
In China, dams have called for relocation of over 1.7 billion inhabitants, which Salinas says is not even a fraction of the total population of people that have been displaced by the building of dams. In Lesotho, another dam relocates over 17,000 farmers from their fertile lands to a much more barren region. The land is infertile and it becomes hard for them to feed their families. Now that they are so far away from clean water sources, they would much rather just drink contaminated river water.
More close to home, in the US the bottled water industry is making money by selling water that is more contaminated than tap water. Salinas mentions that three times more money is spent on bottled water than it would take to solve the world’s real water crisis. In Michigan Nestle set up a bottling plant which caused streams to dry and plants and animals to die. Does Nestle own the water that it is claiming for its own gain? Does anyone really own a public entity? Salinas raises many questions that seem much larger than us.
Salinas brings awareness to the degree of threat that is consuming our planet now. If we don’t conserve and properly use our water supply “the earth wouldn’t be what it is.” Salinas’ eye opening documentary really hits home with all the health detriments our water supply is causing us because of the pesticides that we use in our crops to increase yields. Atrazine, a herbicide that is so toxic, it is banned in Switzerland where it is made, is used on US crops. Thousands of human made toxins, such as detergents, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals are finding their way into our sewage systems, reentering our water systems without proper purification. There are also 16,000 manmade chemicals in our tap water that are ingested through the skin.
The direction, background score and close up shots were used effectively. I think that actually talking to people that were directly affected by the privatization of the water system really hit the matter home. I think this was done to draw sympathy from the audience. Like any good director, Salinas knew that the key to a great film is when the audience is hooked for the duration of it. The scenes with people that were being directly affected made the film more personal and I think that there were obvious reasons that Salinas chose to use close up shots with a matter so sensitive as this one. The background score was so peaceful whenever there were shots of water or nature, and I think that this portrays the problem: We are taking water and the beauty of nature for granted. If we don’t have any clean drinking water, life will cease to exist.
Salinas chose to present her arguments through a series of interviews that deliver much alarming information and convincing commentary about the problem at hand. The interviews added a much needed sense of drama to the film. The drama factor of the film really makes it a fun watch. The fast moving documentary showed the clash between the public and big corporations. Salinas’ camera work was exceptional because she captured both the world’s beauty as well as its worst. Salinas’ camera angle choices were fairly interesting in this film because she mostly used close ups. Close ups add something to this film that no other angle can. Close ups are usually used when one is trying to expose something; they really have a sense of reality in them. They symbolize the gravity of the situation. The water crisis is not something that should be taken lightly is what Salinas was pointing out. Showing hardships of people that have to wait weeks for water sometimes shows that this problem is bigger than us, bigger than we can imagine.
This film really opened my eyes to our water crisis and the need to respond to it. She takes us on a tour of not only the problems in the United States but also to the problems worldwide. This makes our water crisis seem more urgent because it is affecting multiple parts of the world. I think that the only the top percent of people that are well off only care until they have fresh water. Once they are happy they don’t care for the other 99% of the inhabitants of our planet. The notion that we will always have water is a misconception; according to the film, California only has 20 years of water left.
Salinas must have chosen this topic for her documentary because so many Americans aren’t aware that all of this is occurring. I think that this film is very interesting because it had me hooked from the opening credits. All those interviewed worked really well off one another because they were really all trying to reiterate the same point and had the motive to inform the public about what is occurring around them. The film was the perfect length and definitely left me thinking about what we could do to improve our situation. It was definitely a worthwhile use of time.
The action shots of dirty water were really powerful in trying to portray how all our water systems will be in a brief amount of time. It made me feel like I’m pretty insignificant next to the world’s problems. I feel like I am not contributing to the future generations in any way and I’m not leaving a happy future for the generations to come. I would definitely recommend this film to anyone who wants to leave their comfort zone and learn about how the decisions we make today affect our futures.