Flow, the Film via Words about Water

Posted on August 13, 2008 by


This documentary could’ve been called Hustle & Flow but that was already taken.

“Hustle” would have several meanings…

It could mean the way that some people in the world have “to hustle” in the sense of working, just to fulfill the basic need that is water.

“Hustle” could also connote what big national corporations do to those people in the poker, I’m-going-to-rip-you-the-hell-off sense.

Hustle or no hustle Flow, the Film has been my favorite movie this year. Be Kind Rewind has been officially bumped, and I’m not sure that seeing the Dark Knight could reveal to me anything via fiction and storytelling that would amaze me in the way exposed realities would.

“Flow” took on threads of issues from water privatization to damming to water filtration innovations. They managed to weave those issues together through a rich collection of expertise, knowledge, personal anecdotes, and statistics through countries from India to South Africa to Bolivia to the United States.

“You have to realize that these water companies are all started by Bankers,” said some French guy. I’m not sure of his name, but I am sure of his statement, or at least on-screen English translation.

The idea of privatization of human needs entered my consciousness through a documentary called “The Corporation.” They were talking about privatizing human genes, air, and water. While I’m not sure about what’s happened with the privitzation of genes and air, I know that water is going to be one hell of a battle.

At the heart of this documentary is a bomb on captialism. I’m here to take an Omar-like 12-guage snipe at capitalism and the market economy.

Oil and electricity are the two large industries on this planet. It’s not bad in itself that they are gargantuan.

But as the old Spiderman saying goes “With great power, comes great responsibility.”

These mega-corporations are built to structurally ignore that little detail of “great responsibility” mainly because they are built to do one thing: accumulate.

Accumulate resources. Accumulate enough good press to keep doing what they’re doing. Accumulate profits. Accumulate enough political power to sustain…profits. Unless challenged by people, they have no reason whatsoever to grab “just enough” of what they need, lest they want to end the control, the business, the lavish lifestyle they enjoy.

What makes a lot of what they do bad for the rest of the people is that they find ways to monopolize control of resources — despite being only a peta-fraction of people in the bigger picture that is the world’s population. Their game is all politics, pro-actively suppressing ways to stop people from using those resources.

For oil and electricity, they do it by mining, drilling, and logging to the fucking up of the way of life for humans, animals, and fauna nearby. In the Amazon, these corporations will use para-military forces and court systems to intimidate people away from the resources.

The United supports homegrown mega-corporations because they throw money to their campaigns. In return, the US gets its oil resources by starting wars in the Middle East wherever the oil is.

A lot of work usually happens in places and spaces where the press isn’t seen or heard unless you look for it…kind of like rape. The aptonym “raping the environment” is hereby strengthened.

It’s one monumentally fucking large thing for these gargantuan industries to co-opt and manipulate resources that we have all lived without for millennia practically obliterating other ways of life, but the industry trailing behind in profiteering is something right at the heart of all life…

“Millions of people have lived lives without love, but not one of them without water.”


The sustenance of all life. Can’t live more than a few hours without it.

Perhaps on the surface logic of economics, it makes sense to sell it.

You sell things to people when they “demand” something, presumably because they “need “it. Unfortunately “demand” is the substitute for “need” in market economies and can be used interchangeably. This interchangeability between these terms then blurs the line in the thought processes of these people invested in the market economy. It’s all just a game of non-stop, tunnel-visioned, one-dimensional accumulation. Market dictates not who needs the water, but eventually only those who can “pay” for it.

Water is now a 425 billion dollar industry, in the same planet where 2 billion people suffer from waterborne diseases and have no easy access to potable water. Water is actively being taken, guarded off, and “owned” by the same school of thought that does any and everything to monopolize control of oil and electricity. Whether Nestle’s in your backyard at Mount Shasta bottling whatever water they get or the government in India is calling your self-made water harvest “illegal”, the issue transcends borders and is bound to affect you sooner or later.

What struck me was how government agencies purporting to solve these water crises, only functioned to serve the Nestles, the Coca-Colas, the Suez.

The World Bank, International Monetary Fund would come on board to these countries not fully integrated within the market economy purporting to give debt relief. In exchange for that aid, the World Bank effectively became the government in those countries. They effectively held Bolivia’s water resources as hostage. They included clauses in their loans specifically requesting water privatization. Bolivia would allow foreign corporations to “manage” water. “Managing water” meant water privatization, which trickled into such effects such as the cutting off of water streams, its pollution, and even higher water bills for everyone.

Luckily, the people in Bolivia were able to fight back. But this took a sustained massive series of rallies and protests for something they should’ve never had to battle for in the first place. However, the poor folk still appear to be paying more money than the rich folk for their water, and there is still no money to build new infrastructure.

In dam projects are another method through which corporations seize upon water for their own use. This is the infrastructure that severely disrupts local folks way of life in every sense of the term. It’s terrible for local ecology, it cuts off river streams, and it makes people, who have been dependent on that ecology, to move for lack of choice.

Cutting off that ecological cycle cannot be understated. It would be kind of the equivalent if some guy really into the green movement decided that he would cut out power lines and power plants all over the city just so he could plant more trees. We are people dependent on oil and electricity, to get to and finish our jobs to be able to easily access our resources.

Our sense of ecology is corrupted by only individualist short-term spurts of get it and dump it. Quite reflective of the American relationship in popular tv shows, and other mediums. Get sex and then dump it! Add a “Woo!” for effect!

If someone disrupted our power lines and roads…People have enough trouble giving up their cars for transit, imagine that option being completely gone and useless. Imagine not being able to use computers, television, and other technological mediums all because some jerk decided to put trees instead of power lines.

The thing that struck a nerve about this was the number of people displaced because of those projects. Whether the dams in the Amazon, South Africa, Egypt, Ghana, China, Brazil each time one was built, upwards of 100,000s of people into the millions would be displaced. They’d have to move somewhere and adapt.

And it’s not as if they couldn’t adapt either, there were plenty of brilliant ideas from people.

The highlight of the film were the creative ways in which people from other countries retrieved water where there weren’t many options. I liked the idea of using UV technology to actually filter water, because of its low-cost-ness. It’s essentially about using the UV-light like that in the flourescent lamp to disinfect the water.

There was rainwater harvesting from India led by a guy named Rajendra Singh. The gist was that they would collect rainwater to replace the groundwater. Basic idea which had been done for centuries, but his idea seemed to encapsulate whole regions and entire ecologies — accounting for both shortage and lack of potability. The effect is that he was able to re-energize rivers and streams in a region notorious for drought in Rajasthan.

The irony is that someone from a mega-water-corporation, the Suez, told him that what he was doing was illegal, and he too had to fight in courts just to do what was apparently free in the “free market.”

The documentary ended with my favorite solution: a little quip about play pumps used to retrieve ground water.

My favorite for its integration of communal gathering, play, and utility. That’s fuckin’ dippin’ dots to me.

However, I have to wonder why these solutions haven’t caught on more quickly.

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