Waterlife Kevin McMahon

Waterlife Kevin McMahon
If somewhat unfocused, jumping from one Great Lakes' pollutant problem to another without a great deal of unifying narrative structure, aside from an aboriginal woman travelling to various bodies of water to perform a blessing, Waterlife is thought provoking, beautiful and poetic. With stunning photography that captures the expanse and wonder of our Great Lakes and a haunting, affecting soundtrack that includes Sigur Rós and Sufjan Stevens, it's difficult not to get engrossed in the overall mood of the documentary, which is meditative and reflective. Narrated by Gord Downie, this distinctively Canadian enviro-doc examines the changing landscape of lakes and rivers as waterways dry up and others teem with bacteria and experience frightening changes to a fragile ecosystem. For example, the excess sewage in the Chicago River runs downstream, causing inedible species such as the Asian Carp to devastate other areas with overpopulation and consumption. This is only a minor aside, as other than the antibacterial, medicinal and raw sewage components affecting the ecosystem one of the main issues within the Great Lakes, as outlined in Waterlife, is that of PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyl). Essentially, these organic compounds were used as dielectric fluids in coolants, lubricants, pesticides and so on until they were banned in the '70s for causing excessive health problems. In addition to causing genital mutation and death in water-based life, these PCBs have been linked to instances of human illness and birthing abnormalities, such as a community whose newborns are almost exclusively female. Wilful human ignorance and the tendency to avoid inconvenient, unseemly realities, leading to our own mutation and possible extinction, seem to be the unifying theme of the film. It's not pedantic about the issue but doesn't sugar-coat it either. Included with the DVD is the NFB short film Paddle to the Sea, which most of us saw in grade school on a filmstrip. (Mongrel Media)