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There Will Be Water - Transitions Film Festival 2017

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by Corrie Butcher (subscribe)
Writer, amateur permaculturist, backyard herbalist, improv actor and human behaviour researcher. Splitting time between Melbourne cafes and New York intentional communities.
There Will Be Water

2016 (UK) 58 min, Documentary

Playing at Transitions Film Festival, February 2017 at Cinema Nova in Carlton.

Synopsis: There Will Be Water follows British engineer Bill Watts and his team in their quest to solve chronic food and water shortages in the Middle East. Their plan? Build an entirely new kind of farm, in the middle of the Sahara Desert.

There Will Be Water Film Poster
Photo credit: Copenhagen Film Company

The film opens with soaring shots of desert dunes - dry, enormous, unconquerable, silent. Director Per Liebeck quickly establishes the Sahara as the site of a humanitarian crisis. Media clips and press headlines fill the screen and we overhear water expert Steven Soloman tell a newscaster that the "Middle East is the first region to run out of water in modern history". Later, we cross the cracked ground of a Yemeni city and watch with locals as water is delivered by truck, then pumped into their apartment buildings. Finite quantities without guarantee of being replenished.

Indeed, groundwater is drying up and food is running out - countries like Qatar, Yemen and Jordan currently import 90% of all food. As you can imagine this is causing concern, political unrest and conflict. Thankfully, it's also sparking innovation.

The story takes hold in the vision of engineer and co-founder of the Sahara Forest Project, Bill Watts. When we first meet Watts, he strolls along a Qatar worksite telling us that he is here because he wants to simply "be useful". Although he cuts an unassuming figure, we soon realise he's more than useful, he's revolutionary.

Bill and his team at the Sahara Forest Project have grand plans to build a system of greenhouses capable of growing vegetables in the desert. Using 100% renewable energy they'll pump in seawater, turn it into freshwater and use it to cool the greenhouses and water crops. If it all comes together, it could become the new model for growing food in parts of the world that are almost barren. But they won't know if it works until it's built.

Desert greenhouse
Photo credit: Copenhagen Film Company

After years of campaigning, the Sahara Forest Project team are finally seeing their idea come to life. The Qatar government have agreed to fund a pilot project and they have 7 months to deliver and prove its value before the 2012 Doha Climate Conference. The urgency builds around their deadline and we follow the team's progress through site visits and interviews with experts. As an audience, we're alongside them from the time the first greenhouse frames appear in the sand, cheering them on through mishaps that could derail the whole project, and hoping they can withstand the gruelling desert conditions to see their dreams become a reality.

There Will be Water is informative, hopeful and insightful. It throws a well-deserved spotlight on the efforts of the Sahara Forest Project - the significance of which is best highlighted by the team's astrophysicist, Dr Virginia Corless. Corless tells us poetically that we need to care for Earth because "this one planet is the home of everyone who has ever lived. Every dream, every crisis, every tragedy, every triumph, everything. And that that's pretty valuable."

WIN a free double pass to see the film! To enter the draw, visit and use the code MWATERWEN
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*Corrie Butcher was invited as a guest
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When: Thursday, February 23 @ 6:30 pm
Where: Cinema Nova, 380 Lygon St, Carlton
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