Documentary Spotlight: Waterlife
Canadian interactive genius, or where 100 billion gallons of water went while you were sleeping.
By Maria Popova
Sea levels may be rising at alarming rates, but there’s one vital place where they are dipping at a frightening pace — the Great Lakes, which provide 20% of the Earth’s surface fresh water and constitute the world’s third largest industrial economy.
Waterlife, a fascinating documentary by the National Film Board of Canada and director Kevin McManoh, explores the wide-ranging consequences of this concentrated environmental apocalypse. It tells the epic story of the water’s journey from Lake Superior to the Atlantic Ocean through the lives of some of the 35 million people who rely on it for survival.
Perhaps most noteworthy, however — and contrary to what you’d expect from a government-subsidized documentary — is the film’s brilliantly interactive website that draws you in and doesn’t let go until you’re fundamentally disturbed by the issue at hand.
From fishing to evaporation to chemical poisoning, the site hones in on every aspect of the crisis in a thoroughly engaging way — a rare and priceless approach in a cultural market saturated by preachy environmental messages that often fall flat and fail to engage emotionally.
On average, 100 billion gallons of water evaporate from the Great Lakes each day.
So play around with the site and try to see the film. Meanwhile, explore the research behind the Great Lakes environmental tragedy, find out about local screenings, or learn how to organize your own.
Published August 5, 2009