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Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Screening: Last Call at the Oasis

Last night I attended a screening and after party for Last Call at he Oasis, by Participant Media, an intense documentary about the impending water crisis. My first thought of this film as the credits -- beautifully done, by the way -- rolled was: Do I really need this? Aren't there enough things for me to worry about --  The debt; the growing inequality; the growing illiteracy? -- without now worrying about the state of our drinking water?

The answer, of course is no. Water, which is integral to Life on this planet, is as important an issue as it gets for us as citizens of Earth. It is the sine qua non of all animal existence; without water we would last only days. Jessica Yu, the film's director (who attended the screening) makes a forceful argument that we are in dire peril of consuming/despoiling all of our most precious commodity. The book -- but not so much the film -- makes clear that this is because of overpopulation. The film jumps -- sometimes unevenly -- between the United States (Nevada and Michigan), Australia and the Middle East, illustrating the gobal nature of the crisis. I wish the film would have anchored itself in the fact that overpopulation is the real problem here. But enough of the criticism.

One of the most interesting things about this film -- and they are many --is that is approaches the problem not from the usual vantage point of poor brown people in Africa struggling to get water, a necessity of life. JessicaYu is too smart; he is aware of our fatigue of that cliched image. Yu approaches the global water crisis mainly through how it affects us -- the West. That is an effective, even shrewd approach that just may hit American audiences a little closer to home. The film, spectacularly beautiful, notes that the amount of money spent on bottled spring water -- most of it, recycled and not even from a "spring" -- $11 billion is the same figure that municipal governments pay to upkeep the pipes for clean water. The film then asks the logical question: Shouldn't governments be tasked ith getting that quality of water, and, if so -- given the consumption of plastic bottled water -- wouldn't the people be willing to pay for it? It must also be noted that the stunning photography -- the contrast of "water porn" with foul, unclean runoff -- is quite effective.

Erin Brockovich, who was supposed to do a Q & A with Deepak Chopra cancelled at the last minute because of a family emergency and it was a shame; she is a dynamic presence and her back-and-forth with the New York Press would have done wonders for the film (and, of course, this post). Also in attendance at the afterparty: producer Elise Pearlstein. Last Call at the Oasis hits theaters May 4th. As Dave Matthews said at the screening "The Avengers better watch out!"

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