Poetic study of water, its importance and our abuse
Edward Burtynsky's and Jennifer Baichwal's documentary Watermark is a celebration of human stupidity.
The film's explicit theme is the interdependence of man and water. It shapes us and we shape it. As an organism we're born in water and we can't survive without it. It's the essential bond not just between man and nature but between people. Burtynsky's whole career has centered on the world we found and how we are changing it.
But the implicit theme is our folly. In the Vegas desert Bellagio's stages a magnificent exhibition of dancing, orchestrated fountains. With water. Brilliant that they have the imagination and technology to do that. Gob-smacking idiocy that they so wastefully do so. So too the aerial view of a private swimming pool in a backyard, that draws back to reveal a city full of separate homes with separate pools and separate marinas.
Every twelve years 35,000,000 Indians make a pilgrimage to the Ganges, where they wash away their sins by washing their clothes, bathing, and filling their plastic water bottles in the -- may we surmise 'unclean' ? -- river. That they survive until the next festival measures out their imperviousness to logic and to care. We cut to the Western equivalent: a massive crowd gathered on the shore for the US Open surfboard competition. So many cultures, so many gods.
To Burtynsky's credit he doesn't explicitly comment on these follies. They speak for themselves.
Of course water gives us a chance to show our worth. A community of abalone-fishers link their nets and operations to help each other. They confirm their interdependence (unlike the community with as many pools as families). But the fishermen know their plenteous preserve is only for the while before it dies. As will their community.
In Greenland scientists plunge down through millennia of ice to draw up analyses of historic climate readings. But having fine scientists doesn't mean we're not stupid enough to ignore them. As the filmmakers doubtless know, the Canadian government of Stephen Harper has been systematically throttling its scientists, both physical and social, reducing funds and freedom for their research, suppressing their findings, preventing any possibility of their science countering the government's ideology. For more see www.yacowar.blogspot.com.
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