Here are over 50 films (short and long) available on water and sanitation. Some of the films are available for free on YouTube – others are available only by mail order. For questions about specific films, please contact the individual film-makers. Film festivals from around the world with a water or sanitation focus are listed here.
2010 African Women and Water Tribute
WEA’s current work in Africa is the Global Women’s Water Initiative (GWWI), a partnership between A Single Drop, Crabgrass, and Women’s Earth Alliance. The GWWI partners to provide African women the opportunity to gain the skills, technologies, best practices, and support networks they need to launch income-generating sustainable water projects in their communities.
When Abuela Grillo sings, rain comes. That day, she has been mistreated by the country farmers because of her singing a bit too much. She decides to leave.
A Drop of Life
Set in the near future, A DROP OF LIFE is the story of two women, a village teacher in rural India and an African American corporate executive, whose disparate lives intersect when they are both confronted with lack of access to clean drinking water. Mirabai, an impassioned schoolteacher, has left her urban lifestyle to teach in Kutch, Gujurat. When Mira witnesses growing illness among the village children after a pre-paid water meter is installed, she decides to take action.
A Journey in the History of Water
The dramatic story of how the struggle for fresh water has shaped human society to a remarkable extent.
A World Without Water
The world is running out of its most precious resource. True Vision’s timely film tells of the personal tragedies behind the mounting privatization of water supplies.
Bangladesh: A Climate Trap
In Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, “climate change refugees” are moving from the countryside and into squalid slums due to environmental degradation. Like millions of others, Alam Mia has been forced to make the teeming capital of Dhaka his home. We follow his journey as he leaves his homestead in search of a livelihood in the city. Dhaka feels more like a foreign country than home. For the family, it is a struggle for survival. Alam Mia is trapped. His move to the city is not a beginning full of possibilities. Korial – Dhaka’s largest slum signifies the bitter culmination of his dreams.
Between the Tides
Between the Tides is an independently produced documentary film that explores the plight of environmental refugees in the coastal Sundarban region of Southeast India and Western Bangladesh. The film was shot, produced and managed by Tyler Quintano and Nick Manning.
Blue Gold: World Water Wars
Wars of the future will be fought over water, not oil. Water, the source of human survival, enters the global marketplace and political arena. Corporate giants, private investors, and corrupt governments vie for control of our dwindling supply, prompting protests, lawsuits, and revolutions from citizens fighting for the right to survive. Past civilizations have collapsed from poor water management. Can the human race survive?
An American four-part documentary series about water, money, politics, and the transformation of nature. The film chronicles the growth of a large community in the western American desert. It brought abundance and the legacy of risk it has created in the United States and abroad. The first three episodes are based on Marc Reisner’s book, Cadillac Desert (1986), that delves into the history of water use and misuse in the American West.
Dead in the Water
There’s a problem with the world’s water supply. One in four people on earth doesn’t have access to clean drinking water. Water and sanitation infrastructures are crumbling. We keep using more of it, yet continue to degrade and deplete it. Powerful companies spotted a crisis and saw a business opportunity.
Drying Up Palestine
A portrait of the stresses and strains imposed on Palestinian society by Israel’s almost total control over access to water and sewage facilities in the West Bank, told in the words of ordinary people. A compelling picture of the impact of military occupation on everyday life.
Flow: For Love of Water
Water is the essence of life, sustaining every being on this planet. Without water, there would simply be no plants, no animals, and no people. But the global water supply isn’t just at risk, it’s already in crisis.
Ghosts in the Baltic Sea
This is a documentary about how lost fishing gear continues to fish over decades. It is a waste of resources and a level of cruelty to animals which has not been acknowledged in this way before. The film was financed by the Baltic Sea 2020 foundation and was broadcasted on TV4 Fakta in all Nordic countries. After the film was shown, several newspapers and news programs have also taken on the subject. In December 2011 the film received the environmental award at the international underwater film festival in Belgrade.
Give Us Water Or Grant Us Death and Holy Hindon Or Dirty Drain
The statistics say it loud and clear. A study shows that in Hindon, located in western Uttar Pradesh, 107 people have died in the past five years of cancer caused by the consumption of water polluted by industrial effluents. In Jaibheem Nagar slum in Meerut, 124 deaths in the five-year period 2001 to 2006 were the result of contaminated groundwater. These startling facts are revealed in two documentaries made by Delhi-based filmmaker Raakesh Khatri.
Set in a stunning background of colorful landscapes, Go Ganges! captures the danger, joy and significance of the mighty Ganges River when two explorers attempt to travel its length by any means possible. The adventurers provide a colorful testimony to the distress the river endures, and why it merits reprieve as an irreplaceable emblem.
Into the Gyre
Into the Gyre is a 45-minute film documenting the journey of a team of scientists searching for plastic pollution in the remote Saragasso Sea. Run by the Sea Education Association (SEA), an educational institution based out of Woods Hole, Massachusetts, this expedition measured the amount of plastic in the Atlantic Ocean and studied its effects on marine ecosystems, with surprising results.
Liquid Assets: The Story of Our Water Infrastructure
Liquid Assets, a ninety-minute documentary, tells the story of essential infrastructure systems: water, wastewater, and stormwater. These systems — some in the ground for more than 100 years — provide a critical public health function and are essential for economic development and growth.
The film is part of a research project funded by the Art & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) entitled ‘Liquid city: water, landscape and social formation in twenty-first century Mumbai’. The aim of the project is to explore the material and metaphorical dimensions to water and landscape in the city of Mumbai. Built on a series of islands, Mumbai is surrounded by seawater, yet freshwater distribution problems persist.
Living with Floods
Sanjay Barnela and Samreen Farooqui put together this award-winning documentary which takes a look at the serious situation created by the North Bihar region’s rivers bursting their banks almost every year. Homes are wrecked, people lose their lives and livelihoods and the damage is estimated to be lofty. Communities had developed coping mechanisms that were integral to their culture. The film looks at the development models chosen and implemented by the state to “protect people from floods”. In particular the embankments have led to man-made floods and water logging over vast agriculture land leading to widespread pauperization of people. The film sheds light on many aspects of water logging in the area and highlights the work of Nav Jagriti in coping with floods.
Minds in the Water
Minds in the Water and the MITW Visual Petition are a global awareness campaign dedicated to the conservation of marine mammals.
One Water is an immersive experience that shows the state of the world’s fresh water and its affect on people, which is becoming more aggravated by population growth and climate change and compromises the future of all life on the planet. This spectacular film also raises the essential question about clean, safe water being a basic human right. Source: University of Miami.
Orange Farm Water Crisis
This video documents the struggle of the Orange Farm Water Crisis Committee against water privatisation in Orange Farm, one of the poorest townships in South Africa.
Paddle to Seattle
Follow two friends as they build their own kayaks and paddle together for 97 days through the wilderness on a journey from Alaska to Seattle—only to survive to talk about…most things.
Join His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa and 750 nuns, monks, & friends of the Drukpa Lineage as they trek 400 kilometers across the Himalayas in a grassroots movement to elevate environmental awareness, promote education for women, and celebrate the heritage of a culture in peril.
Panihari: The Water Women of India
Indian-American filmmakers Abi Devan and Sudhi Rajagopal return to their homeland to document life in the desert communities of Rajasthan. Their journey leads them to the Panihari (women who fetch water).
Pani – Water
This documentary that explores the notions of “community”, in the context of development. The people of Lele, a village near Kathmandu, narrate the history of how they set up a committee to manage their drinking water system. The narrative moves from a fairly uncomplicated story told by the leaders about the initial installation to the complexities of gender and caste relations.
More than three decades after the Clean Water Act, iconic American waterways like the Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound are in perilous condition and facing new sources of contamination. With polluted runoff still flowing in from industry, agriculture and massive suburban development, scientists note that many new pollutants and toxins from modern everyday life are already being found in the drinking water of millions of people across the country and pose a threat to fish, wildlife and, potentially, human health. In Poisoned Waters, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Hedrick Smith examines the growing hazards to human health and the ecosystem.
Well known participants include authors Vandana Shiva (Water Wars) and Maude Barlow (Blue Gold: The Fight to End the Corporate Theft of the World’s Water). The documentary interweaves personal stories, strategy sessions, and analysis with striking footage of Japan. It was partially funded by Global Ministries of United Methodist Women and sponsored by Action Against Hunger.
This film states it was “established to raise awareness regarding the worsening global humanitarian water crisis. The projects centerpiece is an explosive and enlightening in-depth documentary…” Although, given its corporate and political sponsorship, others say it is just good marketing. You be the judge.
Running the Sahara
More than ever, the runners and their team are committed to the land and people they visited. The international media has turned its eye to the expedition’s achievement, including the attention and support that they are bringing to the water crisis in Africa through H2O Africa.
RX For Survival: A Global Health Challenge
A documentary series from WGBH Boston, narrated by Brad Pitt, that explores today’s most pressing global health questions.
Stories from the Gulf
A half-hour documentary that explores the impact of America’s worst oil disaster on Gulf Coast residents, using stunning original photography and audio interviews produced by NRDC and Bridge the Gulf, and recorded by StoryCorps.
Sudan – Life is Water
Jenn Warren’s documentary “Life Is Water,” set in Southern Sudan, presents the need for water purification methods in Sudan and shows the positive effects of Waterguard, a chlorine-based water treatment product that when added to water purifies it from bacteria that causes cholera, diarrhea and other fatal diseases that are rampant throughout Sudan.
Sushi: The Global Catch
Sushi, a cuisine formerly found only in Japan, has grown exponentially in other nations, and an industry has been created to support it. In a rush to please a hungry public, the expensive delicacy has become common and affordable, appearing in restaurants, supermarkets and even fast food trailers. The traditions requiring 7 years of apprenticeship in Japan have given way to quick training and mass-manufactured solutions elsewhere.
Taste the Waste of Water
The short documentary “Taste the Waste of Water” was launched at the World Water Week to highlight the issue of water and food waste. The short film is produced by the award-winning filmmaker Valentin Thurn, Schnittstelle, THURN GbR, Germany for SIWI in collaboration with FAO, and focuses on the issue of food waste.
This film by Stephanie Soechtig examines the fundamental question: is access to drinking water a basic human right or is water a commodity that should be bought and sold? Specifically, it looks at the big business of bottled water.
The Big Fix
The Big Fix is the new movie from the filmmakers of the award winning Sundance documentary “Fuel,” husband and wife directing/producing team Josh and Rebecca Harrell Tickell. It’s executive produced by Tim Robbins, Maggie Wachsberger and Peter Fonda. Through interviews with scientists, government officials, journalists (including Rolling Stone’s Jeff Goodell who examined the Gulf spill in his article “The Poisoning”), attorneys (including New Orleans Toxic Tort attorney Stuart Smith) and Gulf States natives, The Big Fix recounts the events surrounding the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico and paints a disturbing picture of the aftermath of the largest oil spill in America’s history.
The Colorado River: Running Near Empty
Photographer Peter McBride traveled along the Colorado River from its source high in the Rocky Mountains to its historic mouth at the Sea of Cortez. In this Yale Environment 360 video, he follows the natural course of the Colorado by raft, on foot, and overhead in a small plane, telling the story of a river whose water is siphoned off at every turn, leaving it high and dry 80 miles from the sea. In the video, McBride, a Colorado native, documents how increasing water demands have transformed the river that is the lifeblood for an arid Southwest.
The Fight for Water
Two California Central Valley farmers (George Delgado and Joe Del Bosque), who came from parents of migrant farm workers and whose life’s dream had been of being a farmer, take a filmmaker (Juan Carlos Oseguera) around their impacted lands to document how water restrictions and environmental regulations have threatened their way of life, their American dream and their community–to the point that, in order to protect an endangered fish species, an environmental ruling shut their water supply and they had to lay off their farm workers which, all together, devastated their farming community and hurt their local economy.
The River Runs Back
For thousands of years Beijing depended on the Yongding River, but for the last decade the river has been dry. Low rainfall and rampant industrial development caused the river’s demise. Reservoirs fed by the river are less than a tenth full, a symptom of a water crisis affecting the whole of Beijing. Now the river faces another dramatic transformation. Beijing’s government is spending the equivalent of over $2.5 billion to create a manicured landscape of lakes and parkland along the river. Winning entry of the WASH Media Awards 2011-2012, TV Category.
The Sacred Balance
Dr. Veer Bhadra Mishra personifies the synergistic balance of science and spirituality through his relationship with the Ganges river in India. An excerpt from the documentary series “The Sacred Balance” with David Suzuki, produced by Kensington Communications.
The Shape of Water
The Shape of Water is a feature documentary that tells the stories of powerful, imaginative and visionary women confronting the destructive development of the Third World with new cultures and a passion for change.
The Story of Bottled Water
Over seven minutes, the film explores the bottled water industry’s attacks on tap water and its use of seductive, environmental-themed advertising to cover up the mountains of plastic waste it produces. The film concludes with a call to ‘take back the tap,’ not only by making a personal commitment to avoid bottled water, but by supporting investments in clean, available tap water for all.
The Water Front
Residents of Highland Park, Michigan, known as the birthplace of the auto-industry, have received water bills as high as $10,000; they have had their water turned off, their homes foreclosed, and are struggling to keep water, a basic human right, from becoming privatized. The Water Front is the story of an American city in crisis but it is not just about water. The story touches on the very essence of our democratic system and is an unnerving indication of what is in store for residents around the world facing their own water struggles.
Thirst: Is water a human right or a commodity to be bought and sold in a global marketplace?
This documentary aired on PBS in 2004. It examines global water privatization through evaluation of case studies of Stockton, CA., Bolivia, and India.
Touched by Water
Touched by Water dives into the lush world of bathing rituals, exploring the traditions of our essential bond with water. The variations are enormous, the similarities staggering. From ancient Roman baths to elite European spas, from Turkish hammams and the Ganges to a high-tech multimedia pool, the film explores the hidden meaning behind the simple and universal act of bathing.
Waterbuster is a documentary chronicling the dislocation and relocation of the Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara Nation of North Dakota due to a dam that inundated their homeland along the banks of the Missouri River. It is also the personal story of the director’s family, whose life choices were influenced by this powerful reshaping of the landscape.
Through this engaging and empowering short documentary, grade 4 to 7 students learn that their local conservation efforts can have far-reaching results. This lesson is made concrete through the experience of youth in Matamoros, Mexico, where a severe water shortage led the city to take the unusual step of putting local children in charge of changing adult attitudes and habits.
Water for Life: Diary of J-Z in Africa
Jay takes a journey of a lifetime, discovering how lack of clean water leads to horrific conditions — and finding hope along the way.
Water Integrity Network Films
WIN developed a short introductory video and continued filming its Voices of Corruption videos during regional trips and international conferences. Aimed at people not familiar with WIN’s work or the devastating effect of corruption in the water sector, the promotional video makes corruption in the sector more visible, shows what can be done about it and introduces WIN. The short Voices of Corruption videos present the issues of water corruption from the perspective of WIN partners and members, as well as through the eyes of other water sector stakeholders. The films will be used to promote wider understanding of the issues WIN works to combat.
Water on the Table
Featuring Maude Barlow’s crusade to have water declared a human right. Nominated for the Donald Brittain Award for best social political documentary at the 2010 GEMINIS. Winner of the Best Canadian Feature Film Award at the 11th Annual Planet in Focus Environmental Film Festival. The 2010 Featured Canadian Film for Cinema Politica. And the 2011 Honourable Mention for Canada’s inaugural Environmental Media Association Awards (EMA’s).
A film about water and climate change produced by Leonardo DiCaprio.
Water Voices Documentary Series – ADB
The “Water Voices” documentary series recognizes the power of good examples and lessons learned to inspire ‘home grown’ solutions to water problems.
Writing on Water
This film is a six-part series (available on You Tube) that details the Pan-Asian Water Colloquium in Chennai, India in 2008. This film highlights this meeting of water operators, water engineers, economists, activists, policymakers, and academics from around the world as they discuss the importance of democratic management of water systems and the human right to water.