Blue Gold: World Water Wars / Flow: For Love of Water

Blue Gold: World Water Wars
A documentary by Sam Bozzo. Unrated. Plays Friday to Thursday, December 12 to 18, at the Vancity Theatre

Flow: For Love of Water
A documentary by Irena Salina. Unrated. Plays Friday to Thursday, December 12 to 18, at the Vancity Theatre

Drink in this alarming double bill and you’ll never take a glass of water for granted again. Blue Gold: World Water Wars and Flow: For Love of Water cover extremely similar territory in our planet’s ever-growing conflicts over water. Battles over privatization in South Africa, Bolivia, and Michigan state all find their ways into both films, as does Canadian activist Maude Barlow. But they use vastly different styles: Blue Gold is like the steady sounding of a warning bell, while Flow unleashes the sirens, finding one expert who says that we’re on the brink of “mass extinction”.

As proven by the recent wave of environmental-crisis films spawned by An Inconvenient Truth, eco docs don’t have to be artful to be important, but it helps. Blue Gold sets the tone with its opening, a graphic firsthand account of extreme thirst. Narration by Malcolm McDowell, expert interviews, and vivid footage from around the world flow together well.

With an eye for human detail, director Sam Bozzo takes us to the Mexico–U.S. border, where immigration agents refuse to pursue the aliens floating along a river because it’s so filthy, and to South Africa, where women with babies on their backs march for miles to collect water at a pay meter. His film has the added cred of rights to the book Blue Gold: The Fight to Stop the Corporate Theft of the World’s Water. This exposé by Barlow and Tony Clarke shines a light on the bottling companies maiming developing-world economies and aquifers and the multinationals like Suez and Vivendi that now control the taps in cities and towns from Jakarta to Santiago. The film feels slightly educational, like something you might see in a social studies class.But at least it’s not a complete downer: Bozzo’s final chapter (like the book’s) is “The Way Forward”.

Flow, befitting its name, is more free-associative, jumping from India’s garbage-strewn rivers to Bolivia’s violent riots for drinkable water to Mecosta County, Michigan, where a community battles a Nestlé bottling plant hogging the water beneath its ground. Footage includes some pretty sketchy DIY audio and video. All the while, facts flash across the screen—fish are changing sex in the Seine River, rocket fuel has been found in American drinking water—without full explanations before moving onto the next crisis.

Flow clearly targets the multinational water companies but saves the bulk of its ire for the World Bank for pushing the developing world to contract out its resources.

Blue Gold is the stronger, more persuasive film; Flow will either rally the converted or push them into a deep depression. The cumulative effect will leave viewers feeling truly dehydrated.