- Fryeburg, Maine residents pour out bottled water in protest of Poland Spring diverting the town's aquifer in Sam Bozzo's Blue Gold.
Founded in 2006 by Patrice and Frank Galterio, the Kent Film Festival, which bills itself as “Connecticut’s premier film festival,” is one of the region’s best-kept cultural secrets. For four days each spring, the festival screens world-class feature films in the northwest corner of the Constitution state. This year, the focus is on documentaries, including The Brothers Warner, an portrait of the four film pioneers who founded and ran Warner Brothers for over 50 years by Warner namesake Cass Warner Sperling; the rock doc Airplay: The Rise and Fall of Rock Radio; The Gramercy Stories, chronicling the often tortured lives of teenage boys growing up gay and transsexual; and Mira Van Doren’s The World Was Ours, celebrating the vibrant creative life of the Jewish community of Vilna, Poland (now Vilnius, Lithuania) from the 14th century until its destruction during World War II.
Also being screened at the 2009 installment of the Kent Film Festival is Sam Bozzo’s Blue Gold: World Water Wars, based on the muckraking book by Canadian Activists Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke (Blue Gold: The Right to Stop the Corporate Theft of the World’s Water), which first brought the effects of globalization on the world’s water supply to public attention in 2002. Narrated by Malcolm McDowell, Blue Gold’s premise is that the wars of the future will be fought over water as they are over oil today, as corporate giants (Vivendi, for instance, supplies water-related services to 110 million people in more than 100 countries) and corrupt governments vie for control of our dwindling life source, prompting protests and revolutions from citizens fighting for their right to survive. Past civilizations have collapsed from poor water management. Will we follow?
I spoke to Sam Bozzo about his film, the latest in water activism, and the environmental impact of the water wars in early February.
Blue Gold will be screened as part of the Kent Film Festival, March 26 through March 28, at locations in Kent, Connecticut. (203) 681-5929; www.kentfilmfestival.org.
You’ve stated that you self-financed Blue Gold at great risk and also risked your life.
Ironically, while researching and writing a sequel to The Man Who Fell to Earth, Si Litvinoff and I came across Barlow and Clark’s book Blue Gold: The Battle Against Corporate Theft of the World’s Water. I was horrified to discover that what is happening on our planet now is worse than what we were dreaming up for a science-fiction film. As an aspiring filmmaker, it was not an easy choice to document a film where Vivendi, one of the leading corporations in the entertainment industry, was the “bad guy.” I had a camera that I won from Kevin Spacey’s short-film contest. I had credit cards. I found a sponsor to fund the film, so I bought all plane tickets and equipment on my credit. The night before I was to set out shooting, the sponsor backed out. I knew I would likely lose my house for doing this, but I set out as a one-man crew on an adventure that changed me forever. While traveling, I quickly realized to document the film, one must go to the source. Doing so required me to bribe guards in Mexico, a country whose government does not want filming of their sewage-irrigated farmlands. It required investigating the murder of another documentary filmmaker, Joan Root, in Lake Naivasha, Kenya, killed for trying to save precious lake water from the European rose farm plantations. It required traveling deep into Africa, where women fetch water daily from miles away, and white men are kidnapped almost as regularly.
What kind of response has the film generated?
Mark Achbar helped me secure distribution with PBS Video, Mongrel Media, and Filmoption. I am thrilled by the response of audiences who knew nothing of the subject, and walk away stunned, enlightened, and empowered to think differently about water. Activists have thanked me for creating a tool for them to spread the word, realizing that film is the most powerful communicative tool in our society, and thus has the greatest potential to bring awareness for change. After seeing the film, Martin Robertson of Ideas in Motion arranged 30 screenings in 22 countries on World Water Day. But I did not make this film for activists; I made it for the general public who do not know about this issue—while there is time for change. I made it for my son. Ultimately, climate change is an issue of how we live, while the water crisis an issue of if we live.
Blue Gold depicts young people in Bardejov, Slovakia building retaining structures which conserve rainwater for that community’s use. Could this progressive Blue Alternative project model ultimately supercede the current bottled water industry, which relocates precious water resources worldwide?
Michal Kravcik’s Blue Alternative helps to structure landscapes so rain is turned into ground water instead of flushed out to sea. It is in my opinion the grand solution to all water problems we see. What hold can corporations or governments have over our water if there is plenty of groundwater to sustain a population? No demand means the supply power becomes meaningless. This model is currently in operation in parts of India and is being considered by a Middle East country for national implementation. Deserts can quickly become green. Kravcik wants to expand the water conservation effort to construct our landscapes as carefully as we do our houses. We don’t let our roofs leak; why let our landscapes leak rainwater to the sea?
What sort of solutions to the water crisis does Blue Gold author Maude Barlow call for?
Maude Barlow points out the larger problem is our global economic trade structure which keeps Third World countries poor and unable to build water infrastructures. These countries are forced to grow cash crops using water they themselves need, and then export these crops. However, they must pay huge tariffs in order to pay off World Bank debts which go back to World War II. So they remain poor even though they have resources. I cite Kenyan tea as an example of this. While in Kenya, I could not believe the amount of tea being exported—fields from horizon to horizon—yet they can’t build water pipes for their people. Only the surgical removal of the tumor of economic-debt-induced-blackmail will cure the patient. The key is legislation. National and international laws will bring global change. As that has yet to happen, my film shows the smaller model successes that will help pave the way. But, with Maude Barlow now at the United Nations as senior advisor on water, let’s hope that global changes will happen.