Meet the Filmmakers: Irena Salina--'FLOW'

Over the next few weeks, we at IDA
will be introducing our community to the filmmakers whose work will be
represented in the DocuWeekTM Theatrical Documentary Showcase, August 8-14 in New York City and August 22-28 in Los Angeles. We asked the filmmakers to share
the stories behind their films-the inspirations, the challenges and obstacles,
the goals and objectives, the reactions to their films so far.

So, to continue this series of conversations, here is Irena Salina, director of

Synopsis: Irena Salina's award-winning documentary
investigates what experts label the most important political and environmental
issue of the 21st Century: the world water crisis. Salina builds a case against the growing
privatization of the world's dwindling fresh water supply with an unflinching
focus on politics, pollution, human rights and the emergence of a domineering
world water cartel. Interviews with scientists and activists intelligently
reveal the rapidly building crisis, at both the global and human scale, and the
film introduces many of the governmental and corporate culprits behind the
water grab, while begging the question, "Can anyone really own water?"

IDA: How did you get started in documentary

Irena Salina: My first footstep
was in radio journalism, then theater, then film, until I met an American
painter who lived in a remote village in Mexico. Her life fascinated me, so
I decided to make a documentary film based off her life--Ghost Bird: The Life and Art of Judith Deim. I then fell in love
with documentary filmmaking.

What inspired you to make FLOW?

IS: When
you become a parent, your outlook on the world changes, and I started thinking
what kind of future we were living for future generations. I had gradually
started collecting numerous articles on water until a friend of mine handed me
a copy of The Nation; the headline
read, ‘Who owns water? Is water going to be the oil of the 21st century?' And
the journey started there.

IDA: What were some of
the challenges and obstacles in making this film, and how did you overcome

think one of the biggest challenges was patience. This film took almost five
years to make. We would go on a trip with a small team, stories would unfold,
the enthusiasm of the crew would rise, until we realized we didn't have enough
money to go on and months would go by before we could travel again. At one
point the money was so scarce that I had no other choice then to go by myself
and handle sound and camera on my own. On the other hand, what doesn't kill you
makes you stronger. I have learned so much in the process and met so many
wonderful people that have inspired and encouraged me to move along.

IDA: How did your vision for the film change over the course of the
pre-production, production and post-production processes?

IS: Honestly, I had no idea at the
beginning where I was going with this film. It's such a big subject. I would do
a lot of research, becoming more aware of all the issues as I went along. Some
of the stories would lead me to others. After many years, all of the traveling,
the people I encountered along the way and the stories, the footage and the
information was compiled into hundreds of tapes in an editing room. At that
point I felt that to continue the process, the editor really had to absorb all
of this and understand the subject. But thank God, our editor was very patient
and understanding. Editing the movie was a challenge-not the editing itself,
but taking away stories and footage. I had to lose some of my original ideas to
convert the footage into a documentary. I always wanted it to be a little more
poetic and spiritual, but we had to make some sacrifices in order for the
audience to stay focused. This film, more than anything I have ever done or
will probably ever do, felt guided; it was something much larger than myself. I
felt like it had to be told, and I was the receiver.

As you've screened FLOW--whether on the festival circuit, or in
screening rooms, or in living rooms-how have audiences reacted to the film? What
has been most surprising or unexpected about their reactions?

IS: The
first screening of FLOW took place at
the Sundance Film Festival, and the reaction of the audience was overwhelming.
Some people were very emotional, hugging me, thanking me and making promises
not to drink bottled water. Others were shocked by the information the film
provides, wanting more. An important part of this film is whether the reactions
from the audience to the film were positive or negative; the film provokes
people to react to what they see. But in a way, it is understandable to have
such overwhelming reactions, considering the fact that every human being is
made out of 70 percent water and our lives depend on it.

One of the most unexpected
reactions happened during a Q&A after one of our screenings, when an
elegant man in a suit stood up and raised his hand and started saying, "I
worked for more than 10 years in New
York as a CEO of one of the two companies mentioned
in your film." He paused, as we were all anxious about what he was going to say
next. He continued, "I just wanted to say thank you for making this movie
because it's true: They don't care about getting water to the people. All they
care about is their stock price and having steak dinners with hedge fund
managers in New York."

What docs or docmakers have served as
inspirations for you?

IS: There are
many documentaries of different genres and different styles that I love. Off
the top of my head, Shoah, directed
by Claude Lanzmann, is a very disturbing film. I love the poetic style of Agnès
Varda, especially in The Cleaners and I.
And I recently watched a film that didn't get good reviews but was a movie that
I really liked, called F Is for Fake,
by Orson Welles. There are so many more.

FLOW will be screening
at the Village East Cinema in New York and the
Arclight Theater in Sherman Oaks, Calif..

To view
the DocuWeek schedule in New York City,

purchase tickets to DocuWeek
NY, visit

To view
the DocuWeek schedule in Los Angeles,

purchase tickets to DocuWeek at the ArcLight in Sherman Oaks, visit