Laura CliffordWater is the source and essence of life on this earth. It should be readily available to all the citizens of the world but documentary filmmaker Irena Salina lays out a though-provoking and disturbing chronicle about corporate greed that makes the aqua conglomerations hundreds of billions of dollars from that thing that, at one time, considered the right of all in "Flow: For Love of Water."
We see a lot of documentary films every year and have come across some good, very good and excellent (the latter being Werner Herzog's entertaining and educational "Encounters at the end of the World.") Helmer Salina vies for the top spot, this year, with a straightforward telling of how bloated multinational corporations have taken control of, and often ruins, the world's most precious resource.
The document begins with sobering statistics of greed and pollution by the multinationals. Two million people die each year from water polluted by industry. In the third world, one in 10 children expires because of contaminated water. Pollutants, such as atrazine, are known to be carcinogenic but US industry continues to use them and dump the deadly waste into our ecosystem. The list goes on.
This riveting documentary also deals with the $400 billion industry that has grown and profited by taking control of the resource that show be clean, available and cheap for all. Also, it lays out the case of how governments (financed through the World Bank) spend billions in ensuring clean water where, if done smartly, it could be accomplished with thousands. Intelligent, resourceful people with inventive and cheap solutions are thwarted by the juggernaut of corporate privatization.
"Flow" contains a wealth of neatly laid information. Salina and her crew traveled to far flung locales Japan, South Africa, India, Brazil, Bolivia, France, Canada, the US, and Lesotho and ccaptured astoundingly diverse footage that convincingly shows the extent that greed has on the whole world. The copious statistical information is clearly presented and paced appropriately with the video images.
Just as with Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth," "Flow" pulls no punches as it presents us with the sobering fact that the thing we took for granted is, instead, out of our control and in the hand of a real monster. I give it an A.
Last year, director Laura Dunn astonished audiences with her "The Unforeseen," a poetic yet informative essay on how housing development in Austin, Texas severely impacted the area's water supply. Now French director Irena Salina (the niece of Phillipe Noiret) goes global, exposing the brink of calamity we face with our most precious natural resource.
Leaving no stone unturned, Salina looks at pollution from multiple angles. Did you know we have rocket fuel in our water? That the drugs we take end up back in the water supply (FIFTY percent of the fish in Alaska were found to have measurable levels of Prozac in them!)? That 40% of flus and stomach viruses are directly attributable to drinking water and that millions die each year due to lack of potable water? That we face a higher risk of water pollutants from contact through the skin while showering than drinking?
Which leads of course to the one billion bottled water industry, a sham of the highest order. Even worse is how globalization and the World Bank have stepped in to provide drinkable water to the poor who have lost water sources due to dams and development - at a cost. Most of these people cannot afford to pay for what used to be free and so return to the polluted lakes and streams.
"Flow: For Love of Water" is astonishing in the amount of information packed into its lean ninety-three minute running time. Salina documents in the U.S., France, China, India, South America, uses the requisite talking heads, animations and even the comedy duo of Penn and Teller to convey her urgent message. This is a message that must be heard and Salina makes it enthralling (and frightening!) to listen to.
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