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"Watermark" - the most entertaining film about humanity and water since "Noah"

A beautiful and wrenching look at man and water

"Watermark" is a docu-essay that looks at how water and life are entwined, and what risks come with our poor stewardship

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Earth is 70 percent covered in water. The atmosphere is so thick with water vapor that water periodically rains from the sky. All life on this planet requires water - directly or indirectly - in order to survive. Lastly and perhaps most importantly: Super Soakers.

Is it any wonder we have such an affinity for H2O?

In Watermark, Canadian directors Jennifer Baichwal and Edward Burtynsky explore humanity's history and current relationship with water around the world. This goes far beyond our simple physical necessity for water in order to sustain life, but also the various roles that water plays in sustaining our way of life.

In a scene that's sure to sow subconscious seeds of mysophobia in even the most fearless moviegoers, we see millions of Hindu pilgrims bathing en masse in India's Ganges River in an act of religious devotion. Cut to Huntington Beach, Calif. where the U.S. Open of Surfing attracts thousands of plucky surfers on a religious pilgrimage of another sort. With just these two examples, we see right away that water plays a vital role in the social and spiritual aspects of peoples' lives as well as the physical, regardless of where they live.

Things get uncomfortable when the film shifts gears to focus on the roles that water plays in industry. We see a Waterworld-esque floating abalone farm in China that stretches for what seems like miles and one can't help but ask, "How much abalone farm is too much"?

We see vast tracts of desert irrigated into verdant farmland by successfully redirecting rivers, but we also see the barren wastelands left in the wake of the redirections, proving that - especially in nature - there's no such thing as a free lunch.

We see a tannery in Bangladesh belching a noxious bouillabaisse of industrial runoff into the water. It's a little crass, but "don't crap where you eat" is sound advice to follow - figuratively and literally. By extension, "don't crap where you drink, fish and swim" is equally sound and should really just be a given. One can't help but question the judgment and foresight of the people behind this operation and others like it all over the globe.

But Baichwal and Burtynsky don't question, and they don't have to. The footage speaks for itself. They simply present the facts and let the audience draw their own conclusions. Abalone sure is tasty, but if we over-fish them and render their environment uninhabitable in the effort, then what? Transforming desert into farmland is an amazing industrial and scientific feat, but if we turn another area into a desert to do so, are we truly fixing a problem, or just relocating it? And since water is of such vital importance not just to our way of life, but to the continued survival of all life on Earth, is there ever a good reason to dump a bunch of toxic God-only-knows into it?

They'd better be making some really nice leather jackets.

WATERMARK, 2 and 6:45 p.m. Tuesday, June 3, The Grand Cinema, 606 S. Fawcett Ave., Tacoma, $4.50-$9, 253.593.4474

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