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Water on the Table (2010)

Is water a commercial good like Coca-Cola, or a human right like air?


Liz Marshall


Liz Marshall


Maude Barlow
1 nomination. See more awards »


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Maude Barlow ... Self


Water On The Table features best selling author, public figure and water-warrior Maude Barlow, and her crusade to have water declared a human right, protected from privatization. "Water must be declared a public trust and a human right that belongs to the people, the ecosystem and the future, and preserved for all time and practice in law. Clean water must be delivered as a public service, not a profitable commodity." Water On the Table captures the public face of Maude Barlow as well as the unscripted woman behind the scenes, and shadows her life on the road in Canada and the United States over the course of a year as she leads an unrelenting schedule. From 2008 - 2009 Barlow served as the U.N. Senior Advisor on Water to Father Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, President of the 63rd Session of the United Nations. More than a portrait of an activist, Water On The Table presents several dramatic opposing arguments. Barlow's critics are policy and economic experts who argue that water is no ... Written by Liz Marshall

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Is water a commercial good like running shoes or Coca-Cola? Or, is water a human right like air?



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A thoughtful and meditative look at the fight to sell or save water.
24 June 2011 | by ezrawintonSee all my reviews

Water on the Table (WOTT) is impeccably photographed by Steve Cosens and Marshall with stunning images of water in its various awe-inspiring forms, movements and moments. There is also plenty of footage of people talking about the issues and doing good things, but the motif of the sanctity of water runs throughout (no pun intended) and connects the whole film as an homage to this life element that most in the minority world take for granted most of the time.

At least one reviewer has completely missed this point and has brashly harangued the filmmaker for including so many shots of water in a film, um, about water. It is precisely this aspect of WOTT that make it exemplary from other films on the topic: Marshall's treatment of the private-versus-public debate around water is far from doc pablum. Her film, like McMahon's Waterlife, is a thoughtful and aesthetically robust approach to an issue that has been picked apart with impersonal (but important) data in so many other "water docs." So if you're looking for a number-crunching, experts-overload talking-heads documentary you've come to the wrong water film. If you're looking for a film that cuts to the core issues of values, beliefs, ethics, responsibility and drive around the issue of water as a right and not a commodity you have indeed found the right film. Not that facts and figures aren't in Marshall's documentary – they just, thankfully, do not take a lead role.

Instead, much of the film (between the gorgeous and meditative water sequences) is devoted to the people whose lives are touched by the fight over water, especially "water warrior" and Council of Canadians president Maude Barlow. The film follows Barlow from UN sessions to rallies near the tar sands in Alberta and other sites along the conflict-ridden path to freeing water from the hungry maws of corporations and complicit governments. WOTT also smartly introduces audiences to others touched along this route, including and not insignificantly, First Nations communities in Canada. Providing some space for the "bad guys" the film also gives voice to those who oppose Barlow and the drive to make water a universal right for all. An especially telling moment comes when one such corporate player complains that there is no reason Canadians should sit on all that water and say, "You can't have it." It's a Sell! Sell! Sell! moment indeed.

Water on the Table is an essential component of the larger project of not only understanding the commodity-human right dichotomy around water, but of the ongoing campaign to wrest this life force from wanton and reckless profit-seeking entities. With top-shelf celebrities like Aniston flogging tap water in bottles, giant companies like Nestle and Coca-Cola practically commodifying waterfalls and projects like the Alberta Tar Sands polluting and ruining vast quantities of drinkable, fresh, clean water the water-as-a-right campaign needs all the help it can get. WOTT doesn't disappoint as a tool for this educational, political, ethical and economic battle.

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Release Date:

24 March 2010 (Canada) See more »

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Sound Mix:

Dolby (Dolby 5.1)


Color (HDCAM)| Color
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