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Let the Conversation (About FLOW) Flow: An Interview with the Director

Written by: Russell Davidson, CC2K Sports Editor

Recently, CC2K's resident documentary buff Russell Davidson was able to sit down with Irena Salina, the director of FLOW (For Love of Water), a moving film about the looming worldwide water crisis. (Read Davidson's review HERE)

Image RD: Very interesting film. A lot to think about. How long did it take you to make it?

IS: Five years, on and off. There were money issues.

RD: Was the budget continually an issue?

IS: Yes. In one way it was restricting, but on the other it allowed for better timing. If the movie came out three years ago people might not have paid as much attention to it, but now, with articles about the water crisis in the NY times and LA tribune, people are much more aware.

RD: Do you think Al Gore’s film (An Inconvenient Truth) had something to do with this kind of environmental awareness?

IS : It certainly opened the highway.

RD: And I guess the low budget of the film can actually work in your favor, right? You’re allowed a more personal approach, a more intimate film, you get creative in how you make it, and so on.

IS: Yes.

RD: No big overblown production team.

IS: That’s true. As we went along, there we less and less of us, until there was just a one-man show, and it certainly allows for a different dynamic.

RD: I think people are more likely to talk to just one person, too.

IS: Yes, I think that’s true

RD: Did the scope of the film change as you went along? You go to south Africa, the US, Bolivia, India. Was it always to be a global film?

IS: Maybe a year and a half into the movie I realized that water was something that connected everybody, even literally, as drop of water here could be a drop there. Water that evaporates in one country can come down as rain in another. And both us and the planet are 70% water, you know. There’s a cycle. We’re all in this together.

RD: It is hard to be concerned about water when it’s so plentiful in the U.S.

IS: Well, it’s hard for us to understand when every place you go has water and we all have our washing machines and our baths but at the same time, if you look at this past year, there were major droughts in the U.S. so many don’t take it for granted any more. Another problem is out of sight, what you don’t see, that 40% of our streams and rivers are too polluted to use, our aquifers are dying up, the pesticides and medicines we take are coming back in our drinking water.

RD: You assume the government is going to be on top of these things, that they’ll make sure our water is clean.

IS: You assume. More often than not it takes local people taking the government or whoever to task to fix these problems.

RD: Grass-roots solutions. Your film shows this well.

IS: It’s always been that way. When women got the vote, it wasn’t like someone said “Oh, ok, women can vote.” It took many people motivated for change. But it starts with awareness. Once people are aware, steps can be taken, small steps, at first, but you’d be amazed at what each of us can do. It’s too hard to think globally. It’s always local, and because the issue here is water I think people will eventually wake up to the occasion.

RD: The bottled water issue in the states. Many, myself included, thought that somehow someway bottled water is better for you that tap, but as your film points out, that’s not the case.

IS: The marketing has taken hold. It’s pure, invigorating, tastes better, all that. Of course, much bottled water is simply tap water bottled, which is almost comical, and the empty bottles, wow what a problem. If every New York City resident gave up bottled water for one week they would save 24 million bottles from a landfill.

RD: So what do we do to get us off these bottles?

IS: Educate. Some professors, schools, colleges are getting it, not allowing any plastic bottles at all. No more worrying about these huge amounts of plastics in the trash. There’s this company called Think Outside the Bottle which is great, there are ways, people are doing it. has very cool tips on how to do it.


RD: The bottled water companies are sure going to fight it.

IS: Oh yes, and you can’t expect people to change overnight. I think you see this film, maybe you look at things differently, you walk down your street and see things you might not have noticed before, you start paying attention. People are not stupid. They’re worried about their health, their kids.

RD: And there are little things we need to do, like not letting the water run while we’re brushing our teeth.

IS: Yes, things have to change. We need to be concerned with the state of our pipes too, the infrastructure, the pipes are in some cases 120 years old, this needs to be addressed.

RD: We need to think long-term instead of short, not always easy, especially for us Americans.

IR: It’s like when you plant a seed, you have to be patient, you just don’t run over and start digging it up, you watch it, tend it, it grows.


RD: Like the whole recycling thing.

IR: It’s funny you mention that. People are great. People took it to heart to recycle.


RD: Now, about Mr. Singh (guy in the movie, an Indian water-guru, who saves villages from drought by reviving old-world water-gathering techniques)….

IS: Ah! Amazing guy!

RD: I could’ve watched him all day. Has he seen the movie?

IS: Yes, he’s been traveling with me to some places, an amazing inspiration, against all odds, and there’s stuff that’s not even in the movie. The President of India wanted to give him this award, and Singh said he was too busy, so the President went to him. Incredible guy.


RD: How was the film received at Sundance (film festival)?

IS: It went great, and I saw people in the audience talking to each other after the film and they were getting serious and they were organizing.

RD: Ah, success! That must have made you happy, to see that.

IS: It did, certainly.

RD: What’s coming up next for you?

IS: I’m interested in a story out of India, not sure how I’m going to approach it, about these suicides of farmers, try to go there, understand what’s going on, maybe a fiction film.

RD: Mix it up a little?

IS: Yeah, but I love documentaries. They’re an exploration. But you know what’s important, is to get something out there, to finish it. People don’t realize how hard that is, to start it and finish it. You need to just keep going and keep going and there are times when you say, oh, I should just open a restaurant somewhere.


RD: When did you realize you were done making this film? Did there come a point where you said ‘well I have enough’?

IS: No, I could have gone forever, but you want to get it out there, you know?

RD: Any advice for budding documentarians?

IS: If you have an idea, don’t let anybody tell you can’t, that it’s not possible. If you’re passionate about something, things will come your way. Look at what happened to me! We’re in movie theatres, at Sundance, I couldn’t be happier.”

RD: Thanks for your time, Ms. Salina.

IS: Of course.