Waterlife is an incredible new documentary on the Great Lakes distributed by Bullfrog Films. I had the chance to review the film before its public release, and I highly recommend it. Waterlife is a visually stunning, spectacular, and eye-opening film. It documents both the natural grandeur of the Great Lakes and the brutal insults that the Great Lakes endure. The film shows the rest of the world what a spectacular resource we have in the Great Lakes with over 90% of North America’s freshwater. It also shows those of us who live on the Great Lakes and depend on its water how we pollute and degrade the lakes, challenging us to visually face the consequences of our impacts.
The film uses stunning aerial views of the landscapes that surround the Great Lakes combined with shocking footage of the dirty realities of water use and pollution to illustrate the complex relationship people have with our water. In many ways, the Great Lakes are amazingly healthy and pristine, as illustrated by the revitalized city waterfronts and vacation homes, filled with people using and enjoying their clear waters, fisheries, and beaches. But the Great Lakes are also an industrial resource, used for assimilating pollution, shipping cargo, and generating power. The film fairly portrays these competing uses and doesn’t shy away from showing the conflicts that can result. The film also makes clear that the Great Lakes continue to suffer, often from choices made by previous generations that may not have appreciated their environmental impacts.
I’ve spent many years working to protect the Great Lakes from pollution, degradation, and harm. But the film opened my eyes to these issues in new ways, thanks to its amazing documentary cinematography. The film opens with underwater images of beluga whales in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence, suffering from cancer caused by upstream pollution. It treats viewers to gorgeous views of the Great Lakes, from Lake Superior to the St. Lawrence River. But it also forces viewers to confront the ugly realities of industrial water use, invasive species, and wastewater treatment (literally piles of shit). There is no boogeyman behind these impacts – we all have a part in the society that poisons the water we drink. But the film does have a special place for the indigenous cultures that have lived with the Great Lakes, in relative balance, for centuries.
Substantively, the film’s coverage of the environmental problems and challenges that confront the Great Lakes is superb. Waterlife educates viewers without overwhelming or boring them – no easy task when dealing with complex environmental issues. Check out the film's website for the trailer and more info, and order it through Bullfrog Films.