BRADENTON – Every morning nearly half of the world's population will wake up and walk an average of 6 km round trip to fetch water from open and contaminated sources. The toll of disease, death and just time lost from other endeavors is a plague on billions of humans. In addition to a host of waterborne diseases, there is the deadly challenge of controlling diarrhea outbreaks. With a disease burden more than double that of tuberculosis, AIDS and malaria combined, it is literally the scourge of the undeveloped world, claiming the lives of 21 children every second.
This is Normal, a documentary short debuting next week at the Sarasota Film Festival, captures a simple idea that is actually delivering a solution to what has been one of the foremost challenge for half of the human race – finding regular access to clean water.
Petronella is a mother of eight in rural Zambia. Every morning she treks two hours to collect water in a dirty container from a contaminated lake to use for drinking, bathing and cooking. She knows that the water will often make her children sick, but she has no alternatives. Petronella collects water from the lake and hopes that the meager medical services available can aid her children when they get sick, or else her children go without water.
Dick Greenly was a successful middle-aged American water pump manufacturer, the archetype of a family-business man who had built a comfortable life and was enjoying a "nice glide path to retirement." But Greenly and his wife found the good life to be lacking the sort of purpose they were seeking, and when they came to understand the world’s water crisis, they set out on a fairly ambitious mission – solve it. Believe it or not, less than a decade later they've made considerable progress in doing just that.
Greenly looked at the current model of humanitarian aid and thought there has to be a better way than just inefficiently raising money to bring in expensive equipment and drill a well one at a time for individual villages who have no ability to maintain or repair the systems, even if they are fortunate enough to procure one. Through his Water4 foundation, Greenly has developed a model that instead trains and employs local men in the developing world to drill water wells.
The result is a much more efficient solution in which materials can be fabricated right where they will be utilized, and the resulting economic impact of a local industry can have a ripple effect through the impoverished regions, providing skills, employment and an important sense of community investment that had for too long been absent.
Filmmaker Derek Watson weaves three narratives in this gripping story that succeeds in illuminating a crisis, while providing hope for a solution. After graduating from Oklahoma Baptist with a communications degree, Watson had the opportunity to travel much of the developing world shooting short pieces for various non-profits. Having gained an up close perspective of the world water crisis, it wasn't until he returned to Oklahoma and met Greenly that he saw an opportunity to go to work on a project that could highlight someone's attempt at a viable solution.
“It's one thing to talk about a problem in a film,” Watson said in a phone interview, “but when you can shine the spotlight on a solution, there's something very satisfying about that.”
In just 22 minutes, Watson succinctly tells the stories of Greenly, Petronella and Jimmy Kamfwa, a struggling native, trying desperately to support his wife and two children when he is trained to drill water wells by Water 4, empowering him to make a difference not only for his family, but for his entire country.
This is Normal is an uplifting look at the possibilities that exist when boundaries fall and human potential is leveraged toward a better world. It looks at one of the great challenges of our time and in doing so, casts a spotlight on an important effort that might well have historic ramifications. The film is showing in conjunction with the full-length documentary La Source, which tells the story of a Princeton janitor pursuing his dream to improve and modernize the water system of his birth town, La Source, Haiti. The double-feature will show at the Regal Hollywood 20 (theater 11) next Tuesday at 3:15 p.m. and Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. Click here for ticket info.
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