October 29, 2008

Flow: For Love of Water

** out of ****

While not “Hustle and Flow,” the new film, “Flow: For Love of Water,” still demands that viewers “hustle” to activism against the global water crisis. The humanistic aspect with which the film concerns itself persists through cultural references that bind together many kinds of people all over the world, showing how this crisis affects everyone. Though this documentary’s cinematic qualities are not noteworthy, its message is certainly striking, interesting, and worthwhile.

The quote, “Thousands have lived without love, not one without water,” precedes the film and presents a dichotomy between love and water, though it is soon rectified because the rest of the film focuses on the “love of water,” as denoted by the title, apparently an acronym. The film works in two parts. It begins by presenting a series of statistics about the world’s vanishing clean water supply and interweaving a series of featured experts who relentlessly warn of the injustices being perpetrated on all of mankind. After the intensely pessimistic tone exhibited at the beginning of the film, it becomes more humanistic by showing people in other countries who directly suffer from a lack of clean water, or worse, from worldwide corporations’ self-serving “privatization” of clean water.

Continuing on “the love of water,” the beauty and power of water are represented frequently in “Flow.” One striking shot is from underwater with a light penetrating from above, suggesting a heavenly atmosphere. Besides the film’s unmistakable adulation of H2O, one of the more colorful interviews features a scientist who compares the flow of water over land to blood in veins and arteries. This comparison equates two fluids essential to life, intrinsically making them inseparable and invaluable. Although the quote presented at the outset seems to demonstrate that water is more essential than love, the idea of love drives the recognition of water’s indispensability, and the film presents an urgent case for its free generation for all of mankind.

On the other hand, corporations who stand in the way of clean water—a free right for all—are intensely scrutinized and judged in the film through demonization. The film has a distinct good and evil, and the director’s passion to solve the global water crisis leads to this demonization of anyone who stands in the way in order to make a profit. The film makes hypocrites of these corporations’ representatives, especially one for Vivendi, whose smug grin in describing his company’s actions certainly contributes to his demonization. Essentially, the film is a sort of propaganda, but one that promotes the plight of “the little guy” against the selfishness of his bigger counterpart. In addition, the film is not afraid to point out these perpetrators, including Vivendi, Sven, and a surprisingly-fingered Nestle, which is severely depleting water in Michigan for free and turning out millions of dollars in revenue each year.

Overall, the film is a radical statement, but it is a great film for open-minded people who enjoy listening to the bold statements of others. On the other hand, for lovers of documentary filmmaking, this film is nothing new and not terribly exciting, so it will appear run-of-the-mill to viewers such as yourselves. However, as one interviewee frankly presented it, the global water crisis facing the world today is “not a Republican problem and not a Democratic problem—it’s a people problem.” The added concern with disappearing water’s effect on climate change also helps provide the film with another note of relevance, especially in a world growing more and more concerned with that issue.

In sum, though the filmmaking is amateur, director Irena Salina’s message is strong and impassioned.

“Flow: For Love of Water” is playing now at the Belcourt Theatre.

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