June 17, 2011

WASH and Hollywood

As the summer blockbusters debut, here are some movies on water and sanitation that you might want to catch and some from the recent past that you might remember. 

Water has traditionally received more attention than sanitation, yet in films like Slumdog Millionaire and Basic Sanitation, American viewers started to get a sense of what life without a toilet is like.  Do you remember the clip in Slumdog Millionaire when the lead character is locked in the makeshift community toilet and forced to jump into the mound of sludge below to get his favorite actor’s autograph?  This memorably comedic scene depicts the not so comedic sanitation issues that many in developing countries face daily.

In the 2008 Brazilian film Basic Sanitation, the village takes on local corruption to gain access to sanitation.  The small Brazilian community of Linha Cristal wants to create a sewer treatment facility, but there is no budget for a sewer. However, the local government has set aside money for educational films.  A resourceful couple applies for a film grant and uses the money to create a film on the inadequate sanitation conditions of the village to educate their local government.

Safe drinking water continued to capture the attention of moviegoers in 2010, with the Spanish film Even the Rain.  It has a dual plot that examines the exploitation of native Bolivians both during the arrival of Christopher Columbus and in today’s society. The movie followed a crew that traveled to Bolivia to film a movie on the exploitation of the local population during the time of Columbus and staggered upon the Cochabamba water wars, where local peasants were forced by the government to pay more in water bills and forbidden to collect rainwater. 

The interest in safe drinking water has also sparked an international film festival dedicated solely to water.  In its sixth year, the Indian film festival Voices from the Waters focuses on the global water crises, including water, sanitation and health.

Water continues to be of interest to film makers, with new movies coming out this year and in mid-2012.  The Source, the closing film at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, takes a new twist on the Lysistrata myth of using sex to gain access to safe drinking water. Paani by Shekhar Kapur, the director of Elizabeth, looks at the lack of safe drinking water in India.


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