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Learn: Documentaries

Abstract by Alexandra Barton

Dir. Franny Armstrong. Cinema Libre Distribution, 2002. DVD.

Drowned Out, a documentary produced in 2002, follows a family on the Narmada River as the Indian government is building a dam near their home. Bulgi and Luhariya Sonkaria live in Jalsindhi, a village where twelve generations have survived by its land. The Narmada dam project has thirty dams being built along the river. The largest dam constructed, the Sardar Sarovar dam, is being built only thirty kilometers from Jalsindhi. The dam project leads to a 200 kilometer-long canal that redistributes water to the region of Gujarat.

Droughts are common in Gujarat, where the water table falls as much as one meter per year. Villages like Jalsindhi are helped by Arundhati Roy, an Indian writer, and organizations such as the Save the Narmada Movement.

Drowned Out tracks Bulgi from when he first discovers that his family is being asked to resettle away from Jalsindhi. Bulgi and Jalsindhi try to protest to their government before deciding to drown in their homes than resettle elsewhere.

The documentary aims to magnify the problems of one man in dealing with the construction of the dam and the possibility of leaving his home. The film first observes Bulgi visiting the poor resettlement sites that the government is offering Jalsindhi. It concludes with the closing of a six-year Supreme Court case that allows the final construction of Sardar Sarovar. The viewer is given an understanding of how the struggle for water is dealt in a largely populated, poor country like India, and how the poorest of its residents are victims as a result.

Flow documentary

‘Flow: For the Love of Water’ Abstract

by Piper Wilson

This documentary is about the diminishing fresh water supply Earth is facing and what factors are attributing to this global crisis. It shows that every aspect of life, especially water, is affected by pollution, waste, privatization, and corporate greed. Water is the most important resource to sustain life, and with the abuse from several corporate water companies and the lack of knowledge on water shortages, the world’s water supply is running out. Flow takes us on a worldwide tour of water-related disasters.

A shown example of this takes place in Bolivia, where a river is infected with blood runoff and animal remains from a slaughterhouse upstream. Not only are water problems occurring in other countries, they are also happening here in the states. In Michigan, Nestle bought the community’s wilderness, began pumping water, and sold that same water back in bottles to the people. At this time, Flow mentions that Nestle, Thames, Suez, Coca Cola, and Pepsi own and control most of Earth’s fresh water. Also there are interviews with scientists and activists who reveal the rapidly building crisis, at both the global and human scale.

This film has the power to open one’s eyes and see what is really happening in this world. I would recommend this film to anyone, especially students and young people, who have the power to make a difference.

For more information:

“Blue Gold” – Abstract

by Rebecca Shore

“Blue Gold” documents and examines the dangerous crisis of our planet’s water resources. Water sustains and keeps our animals and plants alive, but more importantly, humans cannot survive without it; it provides food and life. But as years pass and the planet’s fresh water sources are depleted, we are forced to turn to other methods to secure the precious resource.

“Blue Gold” describes the often fatal lengths countries and peoples will go to for water security. Since fresh water only makes up three percent of our planet’s water, and that water is often contaminated by pollution, human waste, or disease, people are digging further and further into our earth to reach unpolluted ground water.

However, by relying more heavily on groundwater, we are using up these resources faster than can be replenished, causing significant problems for our earth and our future. This leads to issues such as sink holes, deforestation, and lands becoming deserts. Housing and dams are also affecting our water because we aren’t allowing for the natural water cycle to occur; instead we are building roads and concrete structures that impede the saturation of rain water. As a result, many countries and cities are turning to privatization of water sources, shipping water and goods elsewhere, and desalination of ocean water.

Privatization, however, has lead to “water wars” in places such as Bolivia, France and even the United States, because these big corporations are making money off selling water to locals at extremely high prices. And if those local people don’t have the money to buy water, than they die of dehydration or starvation.

In the end, “Blue Gold” details the steps and options that we have to divert a world-wide crisis, by implementing simple strategies like public water, catchments, and digging holes to encourage water collection.

Vanguard World’s Toilet Crisis

Review by Lindsay Boyce

Going to the bathroom. Such a simple idea in the lucrative society that the United States has become accustom to. With all the technology advancements an easy task such as finding and using the toilet, is more an automatic response than a function that takes great cognitive function. However, such is not the case in many parts of the world. Vanguard ‘s documentary World’s Toilet Crisis, Vanguard correspondent Adam Yamaguci takes an in-depth look at what is contaminating the drinking water in many poorer nations. In simple terms as Adam put’s it “it’s shit.”

In a world where using a toilet is a privilege taken for granted, it is eye opening to see the devastating affects on human health, that not having the luxury of a toilet can have. Adam reports a heartbreaking statistic where 40 percent of the world’s population does not have easy access to something as simple as a toilet. This is something the public health sector must recognize when prevention of disease is a key priority for the betterment of world health. Adults and children are dying from the simple fact that they do not have a place to go the bathroom and are forced to go out in the fields where people walk and collect food, and rivers and waterways where they collect their water.

Overall, Vanguard highlights three key nations. India, Indonesia and Singapore where feces polluted waters are having devastating effects on not only their rural populations but in cities as well. What is themed throughout the documentary is the lack of education and resources that the villagers have access to. By the conclusion of the documentary Vanguard highlight a small village where progress is being made and public toilets have been built. As a result diseases caused by the lack of toilets have decreased and the health of their village has greatly increase. Correspondent Adam shows that with education and resources it is possible to reverse the devastating trends caused by the “World’s Toilet Crisis.”

Waste Land

Review by Elizabeth Hanfman

Waste Land, directed by Lucy Walker, is a documentary focusing on the world’s largest garbage dump- Jardim Gramacho. The dump opened in 1970, is north of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and it covers 321 acres. The documentary follows Vik Muniz, a famous Brazilian artist who was born in a poor neighborhood in Sao Paolo and is now living in Brooklyn. His goal was to create art with the “catadores” (“human scavengers” in Portuguese) who see themselves not as pickers of garbage, but as pickers of recyclable materials that can still be used.

Muniz took photographs of some of the catadores he met and then projected the images to a warehouse floor where they filled in the lines and shading of the pictures with materials from the dump. Photographs of these images were later exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in Sao Paulo.

The documentary follows the day to day lives of the catadores and shows how being a part of creating modern art changes their lives. Muniz uses the pieces from his project to share the stories of the pickers to ideally make their lives better. Memorable stories include that of the leader of the picker’s association (ACAMJG), the dump chef who is brought food from grocery store garbage trucks and the woman who had lost her three year old son years before and left her middle class life to become a picker.

The documentary ends saying the dump will close in 2012. After further research, it did close in June 2012. When it was operational, the 1,700 catadores picked through 9,000 tons of trash daily for recyclable plastic, paper and metal. They made around $20 to $25 U.S. dollars a day. The refuse that would have previously gone to Jardim Gramacho will now go to a more high tech dump, Seropedica, which is further from the city. Since many will be out of a source of income the city is providing a lump sum payout of about $7,500 U.S. dollars to each picker.

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