People think we’ll have health problems if we run out of water or if our water gets polluted. But your film demonstrates that there are plenty of current water-related health issues. Can you talk a little about what those are?
Erin Brockovitch is in the film, and her perspective is so unique as someone who’s people come to for help. Recently, she got home from a trip and had 170,000 emails when she came back from people asking things like “What do I do?” “Am I crazy?” “This is what my water looks like…” because they don’t have faith in their agencies or haven’t had responses, they have water contamination problems, and they’re wondering who to turn to. So what we show in the film is that she’s created an interactive map to display these cases of contamination and communities that are having problems. When you look at her map and how it’s growing, it gives you a pretty stark picture: It’s not happening in one area, it’s all over, and it’s different kinds of contamination. When you see that and realize that each dot represents a community, and for each one on there there’s other communities that may not even know, that’s when it really gets to be undeniable. She’s certainly seen a lot of cancers, skin problems tumors. There’s a lot happening and it’s very hard.
A lot of these big issue docs are frankly really depressing, but your documentary ends on a hopeful note—where do you think the place for optimism is in all of this?
Like I said, I didn’t want it to be a “feel-bad” movie, but I didn’t want it to have this false hope of like “hey guys, we’re just gonna turn this ship around tomorrow; human nature’s no longer a factor.” So I think the film ends on a note of realizing that if you have an understanding of how this all interconnects, that there are so many ways we can help change the situation. Because a) a lot of us don’t think there’s a problem, and b) we’re pretty much not doing anything. So if that’s the situation, then the room for progress is enormous. I’m hoping that people come away not feeling like it’s hopeless and they can’t change everything about their lives, but thinking “wow, maybe I don’t need to buy bottled water,” or “maybe I should write that letter about a water policy,” or “why am I watering this stupid lawn.” Or even just reconsidering how much water we consume, because there’s even a hidden water footprint in everything that we buy. So in that way, I’m hoping that it’s more of what the Toronto Film Festival director called a “feel-angry movie,” or “feel-smart movie.” I like both of those because it’s more about feeling, but I hope that some of the knowledge is more empowering than it is depressing.
If people were to change one thing about how they live after seeing Last Call at the Oasis, what would hope it would be?
I really cannot say one thing. Part of it is that the point is there’s so many things, and if you point to one then it’s like ‘what about this, what about that.’ I think if I had to put it in a nutshell, it would just be to stay informed. When people ask Erin, that’s what she says: Educate yourself. Talk to people, because sharing knowlege is really the best defense for what’s going on. And the truth is that our agencies aren’t able to keep up; they’re not funded the way that they need to be, so there’s a gap that needs to be filled by people taking actions. It’s not something that people want to do when they get up in the morning, but in some cases that’s really the only recourse.