Film Review: FLOW
September 13, 2008 § 2 Comments
I saw Irena Salina’s documentary film FLOW this afternoon. I hadn’t realized when I blogged on this earlier that FLOW actually stands for For Love Of Water. I thought that it was very good… though I think part of that stems from its coverage of subject matter that I am very interested in. Like Latinos, gays, women, and many unrepresented others, we creek freaks can be somewhat starved for sympathetic on-screen portrayals of water activists.
I was glad to see FLOW making connections between various places and various forms of water supply privatization – municipal water privatization in Cochabamba Bolivia, dams in Lesotho (Southern Africa), water shortages in India, and even bottled water in the United States and Europe. The noble faces it shows are black, Latino, Asian and white. It’s not easy to draw the lines between these disparate struggles, but this movie does it well.
FLOW features interviews with many water activists whose books I’ve read and recommend: Vandana Shiva, Maude Barlowe, and Patrick McCulley. I especially like what McCulley has said and written; he’s the head of International Rivers and author of the excellent Silenced Rivers: The Ecology and Politics of Large Dams. (Note for frequent readers: Despite my copious reading recommendations, there’s no truth to the rumor that I was pushing to just change the title of this blog to “Joe’s Favorite Books” and anyways my co-blogger Jessica didn’t approve of the title change either.)
The picture that the film paints is pretty bleak – the LA Weekly (in a highlighted review) calls it “one of those charming little documentaries that make you question whether the human race is really worth preserving.” It features unpleasant scenes of police violence against protestors, bricking over of creeks contaminated by sewage and slaughter house effluent, and bleak shantytown poverty. Appropriately, there’s quite a lot of blame heaped on global water corporations and the World Bank. It’s not all gloom and doom, though. After familiarizing us with the problems, the focus shifts to solutions. Among the broader points the film emphasizes is that effective solutions are small human-scale projects, not massive concrete dams. There are hopeful images of village-scale water purification in India, community wells in Africa, and, as the credits roll, the camera lovingly follows beautiful rooftop rainwater catchment systems.
The filmmakers show (and I believe) that water situations are inherently local, that solutions are based in community-scale indigenous practices, and that it takes local community organizing to ensure safe water supply and healthy watersheds.
Go see FLOW at the Laemmle Sunset 5 this week. Click for a schedule of panel discussions that accompany the film.