Opening today at Tempe’s Valley Art Theatre:
Watermark—This documentary makes the real world look like science fiction. It’s about the human relationship to water—how our lives revolve around it, often without our awareness, and also what we do to the world in the process of working our will upon and through water.
Directed by Canadian filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Edwad Burtynsky, Watermark begins in the dried, jigsaw-cracked Mexican delta of the Colorado River, its once-branching waters now diverted to the desert farmlands of California’s Imperial Valley. From there, we’re shown dam projects, rice paddies and abalone farms in China, scientists collecting core samples of ice in Greenland, a tannery in Bangladesh vomiting horrifying pollution into the Buriganga River, and the fountains, somehow shockingly decadent in context, at the Bellagio in Vegas.
We’re shown the pristine beauty of the Stikine River in British Columbia, the teeming human spectacle of pilgrims washing away their sins in the Ganges, and the somehow similar sight of competitive surfers at Huntington Beach and sophisticated bathers in geothermal springs in Iceland. There are some interviews, but no narration—mostly we just get long looks at the epic, and epically bizarre, imagery of people’s ingenious, if often crazily reckless, interaction with H2O. The movie is by turns terrifying, beautiful, hypnotic and maddening.
Playing May 2, 3 and 4 only at AMC Arizona Center:
Decoding Annie Parker—Samantha Morton plays the title character, a Canadian woman who believed that the cancer that plagued her, her sister and her mother ran in her family. This may not exactly seem like outlandish conjecture now, but in the ‘70s & ‘80s such a link was unproven, and often dismissed as coincidental by the medical establishment.
The story of Annie’s marriage, family life and friendships is played as an eccentric comedy-drama interrupted here and there by chemotherapy. This is intercut with a parallel strand, set at UC Berkeley, depicting the researches of Mary-Claire King (Helen Hunt), the geneticist who proved Annie right by discovering the BRCA1 gene in 1990.
The film opens with the brief, awkward, touching meeting between Annie and Dr. King, then goes back to the beginning to show how their long sagas eventually converged. The director, Steven Bernstein, working from a script he wrote with Adam Bernstein and Michael Moss, seems determined to banish any trace of the TV-medical-drama pious or maudlin, and he succeeds mostly because of Morton’s comically avid sexuality, which doesn’t shut down even after mastectomy and chemo baldness. Morton is as weirdly magnetic as ever—it’s as if Annie is simply too sexy for cancer to defeat.