Shalini Kantayya – US
Brooklyn-based filmmaker Shalini Kantayya applies her filmmaking skills toward educating and inspiring audiences around the world. Since I promised I would focus on an exceptional contribution to water conservation, she’s an excellent example of someone who has raised awareness of the dire consequences we face if we don’t focus on providing access to clean drinking water. While she has made other environmentally focused films that have gained her notoriety, including Bombay Longing and Chasing the Sun, her first commercial Hollywood release A Drop of Life focused on water rights and the crisis that impacts millions around the world.
“Set in the near future, A DROP OF LIFE is the story of two women, a village teacher in rural India and an African American corporate executive, whose disparate lives intersect when they are both confronted with lack of access to clean drinking water.”
Kantayya’s award-winning 2007 sci-fi film short about water scarcity in India and efforts toward privatization visualized a world where prepaid water meters determine how much drinking water individuals receive. A dystopic reality that may be appealing to powerful figureheads, but for the majority, the idea of this imagery place becoming the future runs counter to the idea of a bright future. The film won Best Short at Palm Beach International and Crystal Dior Nomination at Tokyo Short Shorts. As a Fulbright Scholar, Sundance Fellow and a TED Fellow, she’s earned recognition from the Sundance Documentary Program, Jerome Hill Centennial, NY Women in Film and Television, and Media Action Network for Asian Americans.
“Water meters did not exist in India at the time of my film’s production, but they do now,” Kantayya told Isthmus during an interview from the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based headquarters of her company, 7th Empire Media. “This is not a film I meant to be a prophecy, but it ended up being a dark one. It’s nothing that I’m happy about, and it means we have a lot of work to do.”
Her passion for water rights did not arise out of intellectual study, but from her heart. Read about how her journey began.
She maintains integrity in the mainstream media by continuing to draw from real life people and their stories. The movie is now used by more than 40 water rights organizations in the African Water Network, in the Philippines, in Malaysia, and in India.
When asked whether the film was made as a head-on indictment of water privatization and how she weighs the aesthetic risks she takes as an artist against the desire to reach a critical mass with activism, she told World Pulse Magazine,
“I wouldn’t venture to say that I know exactly what the right place is, what the right way is to get people access to water. Who’s to say? I don’t think I tell an anti-privatization story in my film. My goal is simply to make people think critically and to raise awareness about what is happening.”
When she made the film, she had no idea that these corporate-owned water supply systems were already a reality in several impoverished parts of the world. She is also available to speak about the award-winning film and offer strategies and workshops and opportunities for open dialogue through her website http://shalinikantayya.net/
In working toward building a culture of human rights and a sustainable planet through imaginative media that makes an impact, she has got a new fan and I hope you’ll take some time to watch her excellent film. It’s impressive to take an idea and a passionate concern and turn it into a tool for learning and connecting with people because if more people are willing to consider problems and solutions, then that’s effective political. No time to wait for the next billion-dollar PAC, when you can educate yourself and then do something about it yourselves. That’s empowering.
Sources: Youtube, Isthmus The Daily Page, TED Fellows, Chicago Ideas, World Pulse Magazine, World Policy Blog