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Waterlife. Kevin McMahon, director. Feature documentary w/Josephine Mandamin and Gord Downie about the Great Lakes.
reviewed by Marc Glassman

What hath man wrought? The Great Lakes, things of beauty, have been diminished, their nearly mythic force reduced by the incursions of rampant technology and capitalist abuse over the past century. The fish have been plundered and the water has become so polluted that people can’t even drink liquids that used to be pure.

In Waterlife, Kevin McMahon has fashioned a cri de Coeur, a wonderfully well-made film about the tragedy that has become our lakes. Born and raised in the Niagara region, the story of the Lakes and their gradual destruction, has been a subject of great fascination for McMahon all his life. As a journalist, he wrote about the Lakes and his first directorial feature The Falls focused on what had happened to Niagara itself. Now, he’s taken on the story completely.

The film travels from lake to lake and through a series of dramatic tales, depicting what has been to Canada’s water—the life source of this country. Anishinaabe Elder Josephine Mandamin, who has walked the Great Lakes each of the past four years, highlights the crisis facing us: how will one of our greatest resources survive?

With narration by Gord Downie and an ethereal soundtrack, Waterlife is a gorgeously shot and produced film. Plunging in and out of the water, the film poetically creates a narrative that flows like the Lakes themselves. It deservedly won the Special Jury Prize at this year’s Hot Docs festival. This is a film that audiences should enjoy and support. I urge you to see Waterlife.

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