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The Green Life: Movie Review Friday: Water Wars

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July 29, 2011

Movie Review Friday: Water Wars

Escape to the movies with one of our Movie Review Friday selections. Each week we review a film with an environmental theme. Seen a good eco-flick lately? Send us a short review and look for it in the next Movie Review Friday.

Water Wars (2010)

Available on DVD

You should watch this movie immediately. Not because it is well made (though it is written and directed by Oscar-nominated Jim Burroughs), not because it is authoritatively narrated (though Martin Sheen is wonderful to listen to), but because it is critically important. Instead of spending one hour watching Mad Men, rent this and learn about one of the world's most under-reported crises. The numbers alone are shocking: 70% of America faces drought or contamination, two-thirds of Africa's population lack drinkable water, and more than 400 million people in Southeast Asia are threatened by floods. 

Though it's low-budget and can jump from topic to topic, this documentary is truly eye-opening. It  focuses on Bangladesh, which as a delta nation, is plagued every dry season by crippling drought, and every wet season by mind-boggling floods. Making the situation even worse, not-so-neighborly India is planning a river-diversion program that would redirect much of Bangladesh’s river water before it even hits the border. As Bangladeshis dig deeper for groundwater, they encounter a rate of arsenic contamination that's higher than 70%. 

Water Wars shifts between the catastrophe in Bangladesh and other nations' water problems, with footage from levees breaching in Holland, the wreckage of Hurricane Katrina, and villages flooded by dams in India. Interspersed with eloquent interviews with activists and academics from each of these countries, we see the link between it all: politics. As an Indian activist says at a demonstration, “This is not a question of one dam only, but the future of democracy and human rights.“

At 55 minutes, the film is succinct and engaging, with enough breathing room for scenes of deluged countryside, as well as images of parched dunes where, once, a life-giving river flowed. But thankfully, Water Wars doesn't end on a note of despair. Sheen suggests that there are solutions, that cooperation is possible. We can do something. The question remains: Will we?

--Christa Morris

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