Directed by: Ben Rekhi | 78 minutes | drama, romance, thriller | Actors: Christopher Masterson, Jake Muxworthy, Jon Gries, Christopher Berry, Ajay Naidu, Mageina Tovah, Shabana Azmi, Lindsay Price, Clara Smyth, Noah Segan, Jenna Dewan, Sarabjit Singh Kaloti, Al Sapienza, Don Swayze, Bubba Da Skitso
With his interest in water policy, our own Prince Willem-Alexander has already shown that he has a good finger on the pulse of the current problems in the world. The global environmental awareness, spurred by Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth”, among other things, has put this initially as a hobby subject of the prince in a new perspective. For example, the protection of our country against rising water must be continuously looked at, but it is also important to use water sparingly, a product that we actually take for granted. But, what if the water from the tap is suddenly completely unusable? You cannot take a shower with it, and you are not even allowed to drink it. It’s a horror scenario that our Prince probably didn’t even consider, but which demonstrates the preciousness of this product in a ghastly way.
This situation affects the residents of Los Angeles in Ben Rekhi’s intriguing drama “Waterborne”. Before making this film, director Rekhi had been fascinated by water politics and water rights for many years, and he always had in mind the image of a family sitting at the dinner table with a glass of water in the middle that no one is allowed to drink from. When he was cycling on a dam one day, and saw a gigantic water reservoir on one side and the community that needs this water on the other, he finally got his idea for the film. This origin of the film also explains its tone and angle. This is not an exciting action film in which the terrorists are tracked down and executed with a lot of bombast and tough one-liners. No, this is about the impact of such a drastic situation on the community. How do people deal with this and what all comes to the surface in these stressful times? It is this intimate approach that gives the film its strength. This is further enhanced by the (digital) camera that sits close to the characters’ skin, with many close-ups of (parts of) faces in their reactions to the news about the contamination and the increasingly life-threatening circumstances.
Just like films like “Magnolia” and “Crash” (with which this film also has a lot in common musically), different stories and characters are followed in parallel here. This structure is useful for showing how diverse people can react in these kinds of hectic situations. The film’s tagline, which states that in these circumstances, humans are like any other animal because of their struggle for survival, is always an interesting premise in the way crises reveal the true nature of individuals. We saw an earlier, somewhat sensational approach to this topic in “Battle Royale”. Some people turn out to work together to resolve the crisis, while others become pure egoists and are willing to kill their best friend without mercy. These kinds of differences also occur in “Waterborne”. Bodi (Jake Muxworthy) spins out of control, beats up friends, and threatens a shop owner with a gun, while righteous soldier Ritter (Jon Gries) tries to rein in his racist colleague and tries to walk the right path. The best developed story is that of the Sikh family of Vikram Bhatti (Ajay Naidu) who run a grocery shop and are doing golden business during the crisis by selling bottled water.
Most attention, however, is given to a subject that in itself has little to do with the terrorist action, namely Vikram’s relationship with the white girl Lillian (Mageinah Tovah), which is only marginally accepted by Vikram’s (Shabana Azmi) mother. This story is acted very subtly and gives a moving picture of the budding love between Vikram and Lillian, a process that is accelerated by the crisis. In times like these you realize the importance of certain people around you and you prefer to be as close and often as possible to you. The story of water poisoning itself and the major implications of this is relatively less clear. Ideas about the impossibility of putting a price tag on something as necessary as water, and about the wars that could be fought over water when it becomes scarce, are provocative, but do not get concrete effect. For example, people in Los Angeles panic en masse, but has no one come up with the idea of going to other cities or countries to import water? What were the reactions of other cities or governments? Have these still offered to help? And how was the responsible person ultimately traced?
The crisis itself now also ends in a relative anti-climax. Nevertheless, the fear and uncertainty while watching the film is clearly palpable and the choice of a personal point of view is a sensible one (as well as a necessary one because of the relatively low budget). The viewer is now directly involved in a major crisis and can really sympathize, through the experiences of a few people, with what is happening and can take place on a large scale. No more water … you shouldn’t think about it.