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Flow - For Love of Water - Movie Review - 2008

Don't Hide Your Head In The Sand--Or Sand Might Be All That's Left

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

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Irena Salinas' documentary is about the global crisis we face as Earth's fresh water supply constantly diminishes. The film presents top experts and advocates to show us that every aspect of human life is effected by pollution, wastefulness, privatization and corporate greed as it relates to a natural resource that's more valuable than oil. The film shows in no uncertain terms that if we continue to abuse our water supply, Earth will become uninhabitable and humankind will become extinct. The investigation points fingers at water companies such as Nestle, Vivendi, Thames, Suez, Coca Cola and Pepsi.

For Love Of Water

From the documentary’s opening moments, director Irena Salinas engages us with a beautifully photographed montage of babbling brooks, rushing waterfalls, melting icebergs and surfer-worthy ocean waves. Over the refreshing images and soothing audio, the title FLOW quickly appears on the screen, followed by its expanded version For Love Of Water. We are then reminded that water is essential for human life and well-being, and we are informed that millions of people--babies, in particular--die from lack of fresh water every year.

Salinas takes us on a worldwide tour of water-related disasters, every one of them the product of human abuse--pollution, privatization and corporate greed, inexcusable wastefulness and, to put it in terms that are simplistic but true, lack of respect for mother nature’s grand design.

The Growing List of Disasters Worldwide

In Bolivia, where a river runs bright red from blood runoff and animal remains dumped by an upstream slaughterhouse, the stained and stinking flow is covered with concrete slabs rather than cleaned up.

In Lesotho, construction of a dam forces 17,000 farmers to relocated from fertile lands to a region so arid they cannot grow crops to feed their families. Often going four days without fresh water flow, they resort to drinking contaminated river water that causes disease and death.

In China, now emerging as the world’s leading economy, the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze has caused relocation and impoverishment of 1.7 million people, but that's a fraction of total population displaced by dam construction worldwide--dams costing billions of dollars that redirect water's natural flow and impair or eradicate entire ecosystems. We learn, too, that many dams and other water control projects worldwide are the work of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, which are legally immune from the will of any national or local governments, and certainly to that of local citizens.

In India, we see the effects that the construction of a dam is having on the sacred Ganges and meet some citizens--mostly women--who, for several years, held a sit-in to protest the local Coca Cola bottling plant’s systematic pumping and depletion of their fresh water supply and concurrent dumping of lead-tainted toxic waste--which the plant’s managers have called ’free fertilizer’--on their crops. In one moment of triumph and hope, we learn that the offending Coke plant has been shut down.

It Hits Close To Home

You might think, gee, Bolivia, Lesotho, China and India are very far away and, sad as their situations might be, they don't effect me and mine. Shockingly, that's not an uncommon assumption, not even among people who live next door to pollution, exploitation, drainage and waste of fresh water in these and other countries.

Fact is, self interest is sometimes the key motivator in social activism. So, consider this: the film’s experts explain that water, a transient element, recycles itself around the globe through a natural redistribution system of precipitation, accumulation and evaporation. We're so familiar with the cycle, we hardly think about it.

Water entrapment and pollution--even if they're halfway around the globe--effect us all.

If you need convincing, check the film’s next location: Michigan--where Nestle, the Swiss owner of Perrier, Arrowhead and other water brands, bought wilderness, began pumping water, which is causing streams to dry, flora and fauna to die. And, the company got financial incentives from the state, didn't pay taxes and sold bottled water to citizens who did/should/would have the water from their own faucets, for free or minimal delivery costs.

At present, several multinationals--Nestle, Thames, Vivendi, Suez, Coca Cola and Pepsi are named in FLOW--own and control most of Earth’s fresh water. The film’s experts comment that since water's essential to life, these companies are positioned as Earth's ultimate power brokers. Unless their influence is checked, they'll be able to blackmail governments to do their bidding.

The Call To Action

FLOW raises close-to-home concerns about use of Atrazine--a herbicide so toxic it’s banned in Switzerland where it's made--on U.S. crops, especially corn--which, as shown in King Corn, is ubiquitous in America's diet. University studies prove Atrazine causes male frogs to become female--sperm counts dwindle and ovaries appear. There’s decreased fertility in human males, and ties to prostate and breast cancer. Atrazine is in our water supply, showing up thousands of miles from where the chemical is sprayed.

Thousands of toxic human-made chemicals--detergents, cosmetics, medicines and other stuff--are flushed into our sewage, which reenters our water supply without sufficient purification. Nature has its water cycle. We have ours. They seem to be at war.

FLOW makes no water waste comments about your 40-minute showers--but informs you there are 16,000 manmade chemicals in our tap water and they are ingested through your skin.

Are you alarmed yet? If so, see and learn more from FLOW.

Stylistically, the film basically presents its arguments through a series of talking head interviews that deliver a deluge of disturbing facts and much convincing commentary. In situ verite footage bridges the flow of information, and nicely shot running water images create much needed interludes of respite from the flood of facts. Frankly, FLOW isn’t a great film, but it's fascinating because of its subject--one that mustn't be ignored--or denied. The film urges viewers to action, and tells how to join the movement to help save the world’s water supply.

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