March 11, 2008

Irena Salina: ‘Water has no passport’

Irena Salina: former French radio journalist turned filmmaker who directed and developed the documentary “For Love of Water,” which examines worldwide water shortages, pollution and privatization.Irena Salina is a former French radio journalist turned filmmaker who directed and developed the documentary “For Love of Water,” which examines worldwide water shortages, pollution and privatization. It has been sold to a foreign distributor and is set for a DVD release this fall. It will screen at Baxter Avenue Theatres for a week beginning March 21, to coincide with World Water Day on March 22. Salina will be at Baxter to take audience questions after the film’s premiere.For the director, making “F.L.O.W.” was nothing short of life-altering.LEO: What inspired you to make “F.L.O.W.”?Irena Salina: It was an article in The Nation called “Who Owns Water?” It was talking about what was going on with water, the water lords, water privatization, mainly, and there was a story with the article talking about privatization of water in New Orleans at the time. It was gonna be the biggest privatization deal in the country. There was a retired nurse who was going door to door to get a petition against the privatization. I thought that would be fairly interesting to jump in there. I went there with a friend of mine, and we interviewed Mayor (Ray) Nagin, unions, everyone. I came back with my story and thought, “This is great, I will start from there.”Obviously, I didn’t ever put it in because of what happened with Hurricane Katrina. In the meantime, I was always listening. I listened to Bobby Kennedy Jr., and River Keepers, and he was talking about how the chemicals in water come back in our body eventually. I looked around my room, and there were so many articles on water. I wanted to go as many places as I could to try to see if there was some similarity. For example, with (the chemical pesticide) atrazine, it’s in South Africa, in Europe. Water has no passport.LEO: How did making the film affect you personally?IS: It’s one thing to read books; it’s one thing to watch the news; it’s another thing to actually visit the people. I went to a township in South Africa — it didn’t make it in the film — where people were stealing water from a leaking pipe from a big hospital nearby. They would take the water and bring it to local community gardens to grow food. And we’re talking about a place where people, to go to school, they go very far, and you have big industry on the other side of terrain. We’re talking food. Fresh vegetables to eat at night. They’re not asking for a huge pipe. Another thing I have discovered when I travel to those poor places, when they talk about water, you have to see it as a whole … there’s unemployment in a lot of those places. Some men leave their villages, and the women start engaging in prostitution. It’s not one thing. It’s a system.LEO: Has there been any movement to adopt Article 31 (a proposed addition to the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights), which states that everyone has the right to clean drinking water?IS: It could have a different name, but I heard from a number of people that there should be something that declares water as a human right. It’s just a step. It’s not going to bring water to people. Let’s not kid ourselves — it’s not like water can be free everywhere. The big problem is if it’s a place where people don’t have jobs, a poor community. What about small farmers? If you have small farmers and you have big industry around, those farmers have to leave the land. People in the village, they migrate to the city. What about finding a way for people not to leave the countryside for the city? More and more people join the cities, so more pollution.LEO: What can people do?IS: They don’t have to buy bottled water. I drink my tap water, and some of my friends have filters. Go to your local representative and make sure you elect someone that you want who’s strong. There’s more and more pollution that is not being filtered. They found, in England, traces of Prozac, for example. They’re just discovering more and more. Chemicals are going into our rivers and not being filtered. In America, people have to pay more attention and save water. In Atlanta, they’re running out of water. Something that was always overseas is happening now.LEO: The film poses another theme — that maybe we need to rethink what the term civilization even means?IS: There’s a general idea, a message, that I don’t think we can keep going on living the way we live. It’s becoming obvious. I have great hope, because, look, we never used to recycle. Now, we’re recycling. It’s not automatic. The first thing is awareness. You have to open the window of awareness. I might not have been as aware before. But it has to be emotional. We’re 70 percent water. The moon affects us. The moon affects the tide. Awareness needs to come first, because we don’t have to go on an hour walk to fetch water. I believe in little by little. I don’t believe in talking anymore, I believe in action. Enough conference. It has to be now, not tomorrow. Contact the writer at“F.L.O.W.” screeningsMarch 21-28Baxter Avenue Theatres1250 Bardstown Road458-29941:10, 3:15, 5:20, 7:30, 9:40 p.m.