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Water First
Reaching The Millennium Development Goals

An inspiring story from Malawi shows that clean water is essential for the achievement of the UN's Millennium Development Goals.

A printer-friendly version of this page 46 minutes
Closed Captioned

Directed by Amy Hart
Produced by Hart Productions
Cinematography by Steve Nealey & Amy Hart
Composer: Samite
Additional Music: Habib Koité, Todd Nolan
Fiscal Sponsor: NYFA

"The perfect primer on the global challenge of providing universal access to safe drinking water and sanitation." Sandra Postel, Director, Global Water Policy Project
Through the inspiring story of Charles Banda, a humble Malawian fireman turned waterman, we see how water is a solution to many of the problems in his impoverished, sub-Saharan country. From hunger and poverty to women's equality and population control, HIV/AIDS to environmental sustainability, Banda makes it clear that the best way to assist and empower people in developing nations, and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), is by putting water first.

Water First draws a clear correlation between clean water and all of the other Millennium Development Goals. The goals are a set of 8 targets set by the UN in the year 2000 and endorsed by 187 nations. Sadly, at the halfway mark, we are less than halfway there. Charles Banda believes that if more people knew about the MDGs we would have a much better chance of achieving them. And, if clean water was the top priority, achieving the goals would be much more feasible. "30% of the goals would automatically be achieved if everyone had clean water," says John Oldfield of Water Advocates.

Grade Level: 7-12, College, Adult
US Release Date: 2008     Copyright Date: 2008
DVD ISBN: 1-59458-790-6

"I love the film. Water First is a powerful look at the problem of failing to meet basic human needs for water, and the fantastic efforts underway by dedicated heroes trying to solve that problem. We need more awareness of water issues and more such dedicated heroes. This film offers the first and I hope it will help produce the second."
Peter Gleick, President and Co-founder, Pacific Institute, Author, The World's Water

"Water First is the perfect primer on the global challenge of providing universal access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Filmmaker Amy Hart shows how meeting this challenge does even more than reduce disease and death. It alleviates hunger, poverty, and the persistent gender inequities that hold women and girls back from achieving their potential. She shows how the simplest intervention -- a latrine in a schoolhouse -- sets in motion a positive train of benefits: educational opportunities for girls, literacy, economic choice, income generation, a better life. Water First shows that all of this is possible -- and imperative."
Sandra Postel, Director, Global Water Policy Project, Author, Last Oasis

"The stories told of the efforts to provide fresh water through the Fresh Water Project in Malawi echo those throughout Africa and much of the developing world. The impact of the lack of fresh water on food, health, jobs, and in particular, women and children, is immense and the film did a great job in showing these issues. I particularly liked how they showed the connection between having sanitation and hygiene facilities in schools, and the impact this has on keeping girls in school, who otherwise would drop out if they did not have clean and private facilities for their basic bodily functions. Most all people in the developed world take these sanitation and clean water facilities for granted, but the rippling impact of girls becoming educated in Malawi, on all aspects of life, is yet another compelling reason for everyone in the world to care about clean water and sanitation throughout the developing world. Water First is an inspiring film, really aimed at urging action from mature audiences, although children will no doubt benefit from watching it too."
Mark Shannon, Professor, Dept of Mechanical Science and Engineering, Director, Center of Advanced Materials for Purification of Water with Systems, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

"Water First gets to the heart of the global water and sanitation crisis. Through the story of one NGO in a single African country, she documents how development springs from access to safe drinking water. With filmmaking that may save lives, Hart chronicles water's link to health, girls' education, economic productivity and women's empowerment. On average 30% of the UN Millennium Development Goals will hinge for their achievement on adequate water and sanitation. By tracing that little-known linkage, Hart's documentary promises to illumine the central importance to global health and alleviation of poverty, of safe water and sanitation--twin necessities that, appallingly, still remain out of reach for one-third of the word's people."
David Douglas, President, Water Advocates

"Eye-opening and inspiring. It is almost impossible for us to imagine living even one day without the clean water we take for granted, but the film compels us to do so. Just as importantly, Water First shows us that it is possible to mend the global water crisis."
Elizabeth Arkell, Student Movement for Real Change

"A moving and well-done film, featuring African countries, especially Malawi, which would well benefit by access to clean, readily available water and its separation from human waste and wastewater to reduce waterborne diseases and related deaths, childhood stunting, labor and economic deprivations, and poverty. I am not easily impressed, after working in developing countries in water and sanitation for the past 30+ years, but I am impressed by [Amy Hart's] work."
Barney P. Popkin, Environmental Advisor, U.S. Agency for International Development/Bureau for Asia and the Near East

"This film provides a clear and moving picture of the critical role water plays in each of the 8 United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It can thus be used to raise awareness of clean water supply as well as of the MDGs. The cinematography captures the beauty of the countryside and people in Malawi, and contrasts this with the grim reality faced by women who have to draw water from distant and unprotected water sources. By telling the story of Project Freshwater Malawi, the film also gives an inspiring picture of what can be accomplished by a few dedicated people."
By Ruth Meinzen-Dick, Senior Research Fellow, International Food Policy Research Institute

"Deftly demonstrates that small change can make a huge impact. I look forward to adding this title to our collection, and I feel it will be used well in a variety of teaching disciplines."
Patricia O'Donnell, Instructional Media Collections and Services, University of California, Los Angeles

"I really liked the wisdom of the local people: 'If we were rich and we had money, the government would have come to assist us, but we are poor.' See any parallels with AIG, subprime housing, etc? I recommend this film to people who want to learn (or teach others) about water in the developing world."
Dr. David Zetland, Natural Resource Economics and Political Economy, UC Berkeley

"Excellent...Charles Banda is an excellent role model for those who want to contribute something positive at the community level; and he never looks back to see how many are following his good example.The important message is that he is doing it in a very ordinary way, and that ordinary people can do extraordinary things if they want to contribute without expecting any special rewards."
Luis Gutierrez, Editor, Solidarity, Sustainability, and Non-Violence Research Newsletter

"Represent[s] the complexity of the global water crisis...a real crowd-pleaser."
Catawba River Film Festival

"Water First lets the people of Malawi speak for themselves as viewers are invited to watch the daily struggle of life without access to clean water. Overall, the film is informative and cogently makes the case that water is a fundamentally important issue in advancing human rights and community development in impoverished countries around the world."
Liz Simmons, Feminist Review

"Clean water is the best way to empower people in developing nations...[In Malawi, Charles Banda] believes that a reliable source of clean water is the key to realizing most of the MDGs. Banda narrates this film and his words together with powerful visuals of Malawi's landscapes and its citizens demonstrate that water is life...Science, geography, current events, sociology, anthropology, and government classes can utilize this production to learn about the environmental issues facing developing nations."
Patricia Ann Owens, School Library Journal

"An excellent and worthwhile film, especially for undergraduate students in development studies, since it shows the interconnectedness of development problems. In particular, it demonstrates how water can serve as an entry point for development organizations in addressing the most pressing problems at the community level."
Sylvia Bergh, Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, Anthropology Review Online

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DVDs include public performance rights.

DVD Features
DVD includes two versions, both with scene selection.
28:00 minute version covers the relationship of clean water and sanitation to the MDGs as articulated by Charles Banda.
45:00 minute version includes all of the above plus four additional chapters on the personal story of Charles Banda.

Awards and Festivals
International Jury Award, International Water and Film Festival, World Water Forum
Fulbright Cultural Exchange Award, EcoFilm Festival, Rodos, Greece
Environmental Film Festival In The Nation's Capital
Maryland Film Festival
Global Peace Film Festival
Colorado Environmental Film Festival
Pan African Film Festival, Los Angeles
Starz Pan African Film Festival, Denver
Bergen International Film Festival
Cinespot Environmental Film Festival, Montpelier, France
Cortopotere Film Festival, Bergamo, Italy
UN Environmental Programme Award Film Festival, Istanbul
Voices from the Waters Film Festival, Bangalore
Ulisphotofest, Istanbul
Africala Film Festival, Mexico City
Verviers au Film de l'Eau, Verviers, Belgium
Food and Water-Global Hunger Conference, Chicago IL
Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival
Cascade Festival of African Films

African Studies
Developing World
Global Issues
Human Rights
International Studies
Millennium Development Goals
Natural Resources
Political Science
Social Justice
Sustainable Development
United Nations
Women's Studies

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... more Reviews

"Highly Recommended...A brilliant, methodical, and uplifting examination of the water crisis. Like other honored environmental documentaries, this film examines the long-term and sequential implications of the crisis...Inspirational."
Michael J. Coffta, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, Educational Media Reviews Online

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