Water Wars
Cinema Libre // Unrated // $19.95 // August 31, 2010
Review by Kurt Dahlke | posted March 3, 2011
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Water Wars: when Drought, Flood and Greed Combine:
It doesn't matter which side of the fence you sit on for this one, friends, but if you tend to wander around on the Right Side of the yard, don't let the names Cinema Libre Studio or Earth Now! Films dissuade you from checking out this urgent documentary. However, if you like to believe in unicorns and happily ever after, you might consider turning your head. Though this short (55 minute) documentary takes a somewhat narrow focus to make its point, the ultimate message that humankind is running out of ways to manage its potable water in the face of an ever increasing population. It's a message that we all need to pay attention to, or else our children and grandchildren will be facing a very tough road indeed.

There are many issues at play concerning water usage on planet earth, and this documentary narrated by Martin Sheen (the sane father of wacko Charlie Sheen) chooses wisely to look closely mostly at one county's tribulations. But for starters, let's note that only about 1% of the earth's water is drinkable. Let's also note that our population continues to grow unabated. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that water management is of utmost importance. Water Wars doesn't even really go in that direction, choosing to outline in detail problems faced by Bangladesh. Approximately 75% of the world's population lives at sea level, and Bangladesh is a prime example. What's curious is that Bangladesh suffers both from flooding and drought, not to mention mostly poisoned ground water.

One salient point about this weird dichotomy is the fact that with global warming, (or whatever the case may be) sea levels are rising, threatening Bangladesh both on a yearly basis during monsoon season, and over the long haul. Excursions to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and to Holland, point up very real issues of flood control, but it's made clear that not enough is being done to address these issues in a proactive manner. Sadly, flooding isn't the only problem for Bangladesh, as filmmaker Jim Burroughs points out. The enveloping neighbor of Bangladesh is India, a country that apparently is both blindly and maliciously destroying the future of Bangladesh by damning up most of the rivers that feed into Bangladesh. As noted, India does this in order to generate electricity to sell to parts of Asia (this is where greed comes into play) simply because massive companies exist solely to make dams, and this is done with seemingly no thought for, or warning given to, Bangladesh.

Burroughs does a thorough job of explaining these troubles while relating them to the bigger picture. While gathering interviews from flood control experts in Holland, looking at post-Katrina efforts in Louisiana, and even getting sound-bites from civil engineers in India, Burroughs makes it imminently clear that the fate of a tiny nation on the Indian Ocean is not only important in its own right, but that the fate of Bangladesh implicates the rest of the world. If we don't start now to think more carefully about water use and water rights and flood control, frequent droughts and brown lawns in the United States will be the least of our worries. If you're not concerned now about water management, the possibility of wars being fought over water in our children's and our grandchildren's lives should make you concerned. This well reasoned, carefully presented documentary should be on your short list of sobering viewing.


Presented in a 1.33:1 fullframe ratio, this DVD doesn't look all that spectacular. Colors are decent, but detail levels and sharpness are just average, while archival footage of course varies even more in quality. One doesn't tend to look to this type of effort for reference quality, so you won't be disappointed upon viewing. The picture is OK, but not great.

Digital Stereo Audio is fine. Interviewees are clearly heard, and when accents are thick, subtitles are provided. Nothing in the way of source degradation or distortion is evident. The audio track gets the job done adequately.

A few extras are included. There is a Trailer for the documentary, a six-minute Behind The Scenes/Making Of featurette that just as well might have been edited into the body of the documentary, and a two-minute Video Bio of Kazi Nazrul Islam - National Poet of Bangladesh. You'll also find a lovely three-minute "Earth Song" Video, an excellent bossa-nova tune that praises you-know-what.

Final Thoughts:
This harrowing hour-long documentary underscores the importance of both taking care of our water supply and managing how our oceans interact with the 75% of people who live right next to the oceans. By focusing mostly on the troubles facing Bangladesh, filmmaker Jim Burroughs manages to make a seemingly insurmountable series of problems seem within our power to address, a very important and sometimes ignored aspect of serious documentaries like this. It's not exactly a fun night on the couch - though it does have its moments of humor - but it's one that is Recommended nonetheless.

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