Films on Water


Documentary 2009 NR 1hr 15m. The high cost — to both the environment and our health — of bottled water is the subject of this documentary that enlists activists, environmentalists, community leaders and others to expose the dark side of the bottled water industry. Americans may rethink their obsession with bottled H20 when they learn of the unregulated industry’s willingness to ignore environmental and health concerns, and the problems that arise as a result. The issues surrounding bottled water — there are no standards, no controls, plastic bottles are a mass-produced waste product that clog our landfills, and plastic bottles give off chemicals that we ingest along with the water itself. Very informative and concise regarding US water supply, marketing tricks that make consumers believe bottled water is somehow safer when it is certainly not proven to be the case. It defends the fact that water is a basic human right — not a commodity for huge corporations to sell to the public — many times selling the consumer their own municipal water supply that you can get from your tap. This film will change your relationship with the water you drink. Not only is drinking water in general addressed, the bottled water industry is examined. As a daily convenience, bottled water is shown to have little redeeming value as it costs us all in a myriad number of ways. It’s so amazing to me how little the general public in this country knows and how easily they are trained to consume. And how greedy most of the mega-corporations are. This (and a host of other documentaries) should be required viewing for every American. This is a real problem that I was not aware of, but will certainly discontinue purchasing water in plastic containers. I’ll never drink bottled water again… This really needs to be promoted more, people need to know this information. See Full Review

Flow: For Love of Water
How Did a Handful of Corporations Steal Our Water?

Documentary 2008 NR 84 minutes. From both local and global perspectives, this documentary examines the harsh realities behind the mounting water crisis. Learn how politics, pollution and human rights are intertwined in this important issue that affects every being on Earth. With water drying up around the world and the future of human lives at stake, the film urges a call to arms before more of our most precious natural resource is controlled by multinational corporations. A petition to add a 31st article to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights would establish access to clean water as a fundamental human right. See Full Review

Bottled Life

Documentary 2013 NR 1hr29m. Journalist Res Gehriger investigates how Swiss-based corporation Nestlé has plundered the world’s water resources in the name of big business. I can’t say that this documentary was anywhere as good as either “Flow: For Love of Water” or “Tapped”, both of which are available here, so see ‘Flow’ and ‘Tapped’ first. But for the uninitiated, there is still some good information here. (This documentary is mainly good for completionists.) There’s lots of info online about this.

Blue Gold: World Water Wars

Documentary 2009 NR 89 minutes. This award-winning documentary posits that we’re moving closer to a world in which water — a seemingly plentiful natural resource — could actually incite war. As water becomes an increasingly precious commodity, corrupt governments, corporations and even private investors are scrambling to control it which leaves everyday citizens fighting for a substance they need to survive.

Water Wars

Documentary 2009 NR 55 minutes.  Martin Sheen narrates this sobering documentary from writer-director Jim Burroughs that dissects the ongoing “water wars” in Bangladesh, a down-river nation that’s alternately plagued by drought, flooding and a growing sense of desperation. When Hurricane Katrina hit the city of New Orleans, a crisis team from Holland stepped in to help. Can that same know-how make a meaningful difference in Bangladesh — and beyond?


Documentary 2013 PG 1hr30m.  Exploring the force that sustains all life, this documentary brings together diverse stories from around the globe about our relationship with water.


Documentary 2012. Actor and director Robert Redford, a longtime environmental activist, has teamed with his son to film a documentary about the Colorado River system, which conservationists believe is endangered by decades of development and global warming.  Their documentary, produced by Jamie Redford and narrated by his father, draws attention to the enormous and, they say, unsustainable demands on the Colorado River system that provides much of the American west with water. “The watershed issue is something that’s happening all over the world, where the need for water is greater than the amount of water to provide for it,” Redford Sr. said. “We’re picking the Colorado River as an example of what’s going on with watersheds all over the world and trying to focus on that and draw attention to it.”

Grand Canyon Adventure
River at Risk

Documentary IMAX 2008 NR 44m. This breathtaking documentary chronicles the 15-day river-rafting trip that environmentalists Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Wade Davis mount to raise awareness about the importance of water conservation.

Last Call at the Oasis

Documentary 2011 PG-13 1hr 39m. This explores the global water crisis, examining deficiencies in the supply system and communities affected by water shortages. This film is hammering the fact there is a water problem. OK, I get that. Not much science here, but a lot of alarmist talk. Smacks more of propaganda than an intellectual overview of cause, effect and variety of solutions. There are better films on this topic for sure. The basic problems with water is that we’re using way too much of it, that this trend will eventually dry out our freshwater sources (which are insanely cheap when compared to desalination and water reclamation) in the coming century, and that this is converging with climate change which is further reducing water supplies in some areas. A lot of waste is taking place, and this can be lowered to buy some time, but with economic and population growth it won’t help enough. Various technologies promise some hope: desalination can help the coasts and water reclamation can be used more than it is. But neither of these will really address the elephant in the room, which is agriculture, and those practices have to change radically. Coupled with lowering water reserves is the poisoning effect taking place in the water supply, and the cure for that is telling agriculture to stop using pesticides.

Bolivia: Leasing the Rain

Documentary Frontline World 2002. In Bolivia, a private consortium, dominated by the Bechtel Corporation of San Francisco, had taken over Cochabamba’s water system in 2000 and raised water rates. Protestors blamed Bechtel for trying to “lease the rain.” A popular protest there turned into a deadly riot. The army battled civilians in the streets on and off for three months, hundreds were arrested, a seventeen year-old boy was shot and killed, the government of Bolivia nearly collapsed. The water warriors who ousted Bechtel took control of the water system, vowing to run it as a human right, not as a commodity. See also Even the Rain.

Even the Rain
(También la Lluvia)

Drama 2010 NR 1hr42m. While making a film about the incursion of Christopher Columbus into the New World, a director finds the Bolivian locals protesting modern exploitation, as the filming occurs simultaneously with the Bolivian water war in the year 2000. Very interesting premise of a film crew making an ‘anti-imperialist’ historical film in Bolivia and encountering fierce local struggles against exploitation and oppression.  It’s nice to see an entertaining drama and thought-provoking treatment of issues you typically see only in a documentary. An important film for our time. See also Leasing the Rain.

South Africa: The Play Pump
Turning Water Into Child’s Play

Documentary Frontline / World 2005. In rural villages across South Africa, some 5 million people don’t have access to clean drinking water. In this week’s Rough Cut, Africa correspondent Amy Costello brings us a surprisingly upbeat tale about Trevor Field, a canny entrepreneur who decided to tackle South Africa’s water woes in his own novel and enterprising way.


Satire 1985 PG-13 98 minutes. Baxter Thwaites is the laissez-faire chief politico of a largely forgotten backwater British isle in the Caribbean. But the fortunes of the governor (and his colony) change when oil explorers accidentally tap into a rich vein of mineral water.


Drama 1974 R 130 minutes.  With a suspicious, porcelain-skinned femme fatale (Faye Dunaway) bankrolling his snooping, private eye J.J. Gittes (Jack Nicholson) uncovers intricate dirty dealings in the Los Angeles waterworks and gets his nose slashed for his trouble. Meanwhile, his financier harbors a nasty family secret. Director Roman Polanski reimagines 1930s Los Angeles with an onionlike story that reveals itself one complex layer at a time in this classic neonoir.


Poisoned Waters

Documentary Frontline 2009 NR 120 minutes. Turning a critical eye toward the growing problem of water pollution, this sobering installment of “Frontline” examines the conditions that lead to water contamination and the danger it poses to human health. The program exposes the worsening conditions of Puget Sound on the West Coast and Chesapeake Bay on the East Coast, pointing to the threat of continued runoff from development, agriculture and industry. See Full Review

The Last Mountain

Documentary 2011 PG 1hr 35m. This is a gripping documentary that follows ordinary citizens in West Virginia’s Coal River Valley as they wage a campaign to prevent the infamous Massey Energy Company from expanding ruinous mountaintop removal mining operations. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and the people of Coal River for show us that corporations have to be held accountable for their greed and belief that profits trump life. See Full Review


Documentary 2010 NR 107 minutes. In this Oscar-nominated documentary, director Josh Fox journeys across America to examine the negative effects of natural-gas drilling, from poisoned water sources to kitchen sinks that burst into flames to unhealthy animals and people. See Full Review

Split Estate

Documentary 2009 NR 1hr 16m. The struggle between preserving public health and public treasures and satisfying the economy’s never-ending hunger for new energy sources is played out in the scenic landscape of Garfield County, Colo. Narrated by Ali MacGraw, the film details the oil and natural gas industry’s legacy of environmental damage and pollution in Colorado and elsewhere, as well as residents’ battle to protect their health and their clean water supplies.

Semper Fi: Always Faithful

Documentary 2011 NR 76 minutes. This wrenching documentary follows Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger, who lost his daughter to a rare leukemia, as he reveals how the Marine Corps has betrayed its soldiers and their families by exposing them to toxic water at a base in North Carolina.

The Unforeseen

Documentary 2007 NR 93 minutes. Robert Redford and Terrence Malick executive produce director Laura Dunn’s vivid examination of unchecked development at the expense of environmental sustainability, specifying the Barton Springs aquifer of Austin, Texas, as case in point. The documentary draws on archival footage and interviews with Redford, former Gov. Ann Richards, lobbyist Dick Brown and Austin land developer Gary Bradley to contemplate the true cost of the American Dream.

Erin Brockovich

Docudrama 2000 R 131 minutes. Julia Roberts earned an Oscar in this unconventional drama based on actual events for her portrayal of Erin Brockovich, a twice-divorced mother of three who sees an injustice, takes on the bad guy and wins — with a little help from her push-up bra. She develops a case against PG&E; for poisoning the water of the community of Hinkley, CA, with the carcinogen, hexavalent chromium.

A Civil Action

Docudrama 1998 PG-13 115 minutes. In this drama based on a true story, John Travolta stars as a personal-injury lawyer who sues a major corporation when the drinking water in Woburn, Mass., is found to contain high levels of industrial solvents. Believing the contamination is responsible for the large number of leukemia deaths among the town’s children, the citizens — lead by a woman (Kathleen Quinlan) whose child has died — hire a lawyer to take on the corporate polluters.

In Our Water

Documentary Frontline 1983. Frank Kaler’s story begins simply enough when he requests a water test. Why? Because his children develop skin lesions after bathing in it. Frontline chronicles Kaler’s six-year battle with local and federal officials over the chemical pollution of his drinking water.


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