Cinema Libre Studios specializes in consciousness-raising documentaries about a variety of left-leaning subjects—some of its better-known releases include “Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War On Journalism” (2004) and “Angels in the Dust” (2007). The studio is currently preparing to release Oliver Stone’s controversial new documentary “South of the Border” (2009) featuring Raul Castro and Hugo Chavez.
Today Cinema Libre is releasing two new documentaries on DVD: “For my wife …,” the story of Charlene Strong, an LGBT rights activist, and “Water Wars,” a look at the ongoing water crisis in Bangladesh and its implications.
“For My Wife…” is an intensely-felt film. Barely clocking in at one hour, it packs in more sadness, outrage and redemption than you’d think possible. Ms. Strong’s story is both heartbreaking and inspiring: after her partner of nine years is killed in a freak flash flood she has to battle hospital policies (which did not recognize her as her partner’s next of kin) and a funeral director’s prejudice in order to lay her partner to rest. Outraged, Ms. Strong takes her story to the Washington state legislature, where her testimony helped to pass a bill that protects the rights of same-sex couples in life-and-death situations.
After that, Ms. Strong became a celebrity championing LGBT equality; the film follows her as she begins working with national LGBT rights organizations, chats with Gloria Steinem and is honored at the GLAAD Media Awards. The film is interspersed with other stories of unimaginable discrimination, and the speeches given in the Washington legislature in opposition to the same-sex rights bill are nothing short of shocking. Through it all Charlene Strong remains a deeply dignified and inspiring protagonist. To say that this film is a call to action doesn’t really do it justice: it’s a call to humanity. Anyone who is not in support of LGBT equality has a moral obligation to watch this film.
“Water Wars”: When Drought, Flood and Greed Collide” is a portrait of the water crisis in Bangladesh which, the filmmakers imply, could be a microcosm for the future of the entire world. Bangladesh is surrounded on three sides by India and on the fourth side by the ocean; it relies on the Brahmaputra river–which flows ¬from North-East India–for 65% of its fresh water. However, with no regard for its smaller, less powerful neighbor, India has decided to divert 70% of the Brahmaputra away from Bangladesh all together in order to provide more water to Indian citizens.
Through interviews with Bangladeshi officials and residents, Oscar-nominated director Jim Burroughs chronicles the seasonal struggles that the people of Bangladesh face. When the rainy season comes, Indian dams are opened to prevent flooding, which, of course, creates massive flooding downstream in Bangladesh. In the drier seasons many huge rivers in Bangladesh dry up entirely, as the Indian dams hold in as much water as possible. Burroughs explores the daily lives of this desperate population, and also widens his focus to include other stories of how water shaped human history, from the 1953 flooding of Holland through to Katrina and the tsunami of 2004, which killed over 200,000 people. Burroughs interviews Dutch water management experts who have been “keeping the water out since the Middle Ages,” as well as Bangladeshi activists and academics, several of whom warn that failure to distribute water rights evenly and fairly could result in the next World War. «Water Wars» also comes in at a tidy running time of about an hour—this keeps it punchy and compelling, and its narration, by Martin Sheen, is a nicely authoritative touch.
Anyone with a thirst for timely, relevant documentaries should seek out “Water Wars” and especially “For My Wife…,” and should keep their eyes peeled for more releases from Cinema Libre.