Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Top of the Queue: ‘Tapped’ an anything but dry look at bottled water

From an article in 77Square:

By ROB THOMAS | The Capital Times | | Posted: Tuesday, August 10, 2010 4:45 am

Top of the Queue: ‘Tapped’ an anything but dry look at bottled water

Customers buy bottled water from Costco in this 2007 photo. The new documentary “Tapped” looks at the environmental impact of the bottled-water industry. 
If you watch enough documentaries about the imminent catastrophes facing humanity, the upside is that one calamity ends up solving another. I watched “Countdown to Zero,” about the world’s nuclear threat, (see review on page 13) right before watching “Tapped,” about the world’s precarious clean water supply.
And, on the bright side, if nuclear annihilation does come, we won’t have to fret too much about two-thirds of the planet not having access to clean drinking water by 2030, right?
All kidding aside (and, really, you have to have some sense of humor after wading through these, “An Inconvenient Truth,” “Food Inc.” and others), “Tapped” caught me a little off guard. You might think that a documentary on the water supply might be a little (ahem) dry, but it’s an engaging and enraging look at the environmental impact of the bottled water industry. “Tapped” comes out on DVD this week.
Although I suppose I shouldn’t be so surprised, as “Tapped” was made by the producers of the excellent documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car?” In that film, like many of the new wave of environmental documentaries, filmmakers are looking for emotional narratives through which they can tell their stories and present their cases.
In “Tapped,” it’s often the classic David vs. Goliath struggle of ordinary folk against the big bottling companies. While most water bottles feature mountain springs and peaks on their labels, two out of every five bottles come from a municipal tap. The movie estimates bottling companies like Pepsico pay between six and 11 cents per gallon for water, yet a gallon of that water costs more to a consumer than a gallon of gasoline.
While the health and environmental risks of bottled water are well covered in the film (only one in five of the bottles, which are often carried by folks on the go, end up recycled) I was especially interested to see the marketing triumph of bottled water; how we were convinced to buy something that we get for free from the bathroom faucet.
Director Stephanie Soechtig does give representatives for the bottled-water industry time to air their dissenting views on her film’s thesis, and I have to admit, I do love when she puts them on the spot, turning their own talking points against them. When one claims they don’t really consider tap water the enemy, she leaves him almost dumbstruck when she pulls out a quote from a Pepsico executive who said, in 2000, “The biggest enemy is tap water.” Whoops.
“Tapped” clocks in at a breezy 78 minutes and has a lively tone that includes MGMT and Radiohead (“Fake Plastic Trees,” of course) on the soundtrack. The message about bottled water seems to be getting through; at Lollapalooza last weekend, water was only sold in recyclable cardboard containers. They were easily broken down and tossed in a recycling bin — right next to the piles of soft drink bottles sold at the festival.
For a slightly different take on water rights issues, check out the documentary “Flow” (which played at Sundance Cinemas). “Flow” looks at the growing movement to privatize the world’s water supply. An absolute must-see documentary about the creatures who live in water is the Oscar-winning “The Cove,” a suspenseful and sobering film about a group of activists who try to expose a dolphin-slaughtering operation in Japan.

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