Drowned Out

"Good"

Drowned Out Review


Dam-building is one of society's oldest and most controversial tricks on mother nature. Irrigation, electricity, and drinking water are provided where they formerly couldn't reach, but in the process, enormous lakes are formed behind the dams -- often drowning villages constructed there.

Drowned Out examines the massively controversial Narmada Dam and its relatives in India, an enormous and expensive project originally conceived to bring water to drought-ridden areas. According to critics (and director Franny Armstrong), this isn't quite the case: Not only are dry areas not getting water, thousands of families are being displaced because of the dam. The government has little land to give, so it offers meager amounts of cash to those affected: Most spend it immediately and move to the disease-infested slums of the cities. Meanwhile, a few brave souls choose to stay and tough it out, moving to higher ground if they can, resigning themselves to die if they must. (The government won't allow that either, though: People are beaten until they move.)

Armstrong spends most of her 75 minutes getting the reaction of the villagers who are about to be displaced by the construction of the dam, which reaches higher every year. It's hard not to take her word for everything: At court hearings and sit-ins, the government is painted as stupid, greedy, or both: The dam wasn't properly researched. The money they give out isn't enough. The water is only going to businesses and commercial farms. And so on.

This is the stuff of any number of documentaries dedicated to exposing the plight of one poor region or another, and as usual Armstrong's subjects don't have any solutions aside from "stop building the dam," which isn't even a remote likelihood. Will Drowned Out provoke an international response (15 minutes of bonus footage show her subjects -- once safe from the water by a matter of feet -- have finally had to move)? Probably not: My hunch is that, if given the chance, the Indian government could point to hundreds of successes generated by the project. Armstrong doesn't go there; the film is one-sided to the point where it feels unfinished. It's like watching a Michael Moore movie, rife with its own agenda: At the end, you won't know what to think.



Drowned Out

Facts and Figures

Run time: 83 mins

In Theaters: Monday 23rd July 2012

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

IMDB: 6.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

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