Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
A close-up view of the Colorado River, which is featured in the documentary "Watershed." The movie screens Tuesday, Aug. 28, at the City Library auditorium in Salt Lake City. Courtesy The Redford Center/Kontent Films
Movie preview: Seeking solutions to Colorado River’s troubles
Documentary » Redford Center produces “Watershed,” which looks at ways to restore the waterway.
First Published Aug 23 2012 09:21 pm • Last Updated Nov 30 2012 11:33 pm

Mark Decena has seen a lot of "doom and gloom" documentaries about water. "I wanted to make a positive film about water, but after delving into it a little bit, I said, ‘This is impossible,’ " said Decena, a filmmaker based in San Francisco.

But with some effort, and help from two generations of Redfords, Decena directed "Watershed: Exploring a New Water Ethic for the New West," a documentary that looks at the problems of water distribution in the Colorado River basin and some possible solutions.

At a glance

‘Watershed’ screening

The documentary “Watershed: Exploring a New Water Ethic for the New West” was produced by The Redford Center.

Where » City Library auditorium, 210 E. 400 South, Salt Lake City.

When » Tuesday, Aug. 28, at 7 p.m.

Info » Followed by a panel discussion that features filmmaker Mark Decena; producer James Redford; Sue Bellagamba, Canyonlands regional director, The Nature Conservancy; Gary Wockner, director, Save the Colorado; and moderated by Dave Livermore, Utah state director of The Nature Conservancy. The screening is presented by the Utah Film Center.

Admission » Free.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

The movie will screen Tuesday, Aug. 28, at 7 p.m. at the City Library auditorium (see box for information). The free screening will be followed by a panel discussion that includes Decena and producer James Redford.

The movie looks at the Colorado River and its tributaries, a water system the covers seven Western states and part of Mexico. The Colorado is described (in a narration by Redford’s father, actor/filmmaker/activist Robert Redford) as "the most dammed, dibbed and diverted river" anywhere. A river that once raged through the West is now stopped by dams, its water sent to Denver, Las Vegas and Los Angeles — to the point where the river doesn’t reach the Pacific Ocean.

"I had heard that the [Colorado] Delta was drying out," James Redford said in an interview. "I hadn’t realized it was virtual desert."

The movie explores how the Colorado’s water is called upon for such purposes as keeping suburban lawns green, extracting natural gas (in the environmentally suspect process called "fracking") and powering hydroelectric turbines. The movie also features interviews with people trying to improve the Colorado, including an organic farmer, a mayor of a Colorado town that uses solar energy, a Navajo elder who teaches the importance of using only the water you need, and conservationists in Mexico trying to restore wetlands in the delta area.

"I’m surprised how much low-hanging fruit there is, as far as how much conservation can get us," Redford said.

The movie is the second production of The Redford Center, a group based at the Redford family’s Sundance resort dedicated to melding storytelling and social activism. The Redford Center initially approached Decena, whose science-based romantic drama "Dopamine" played the 2003 Sundance Film Festival, about making some short films — which led to his work on this hour-long documentary.

"I’m a water policy neophyte," Decena said. "I quickly realized what a quicksand it is."

Instead, Decena and his crew set about finding seven stories of people whose lives revolve around the Colorado and its water in one way or another. "We wanted not to have talking heads," Decena said, opting instead for real people seeking solutions to water problems, which are effectively illustrated with clever animated segments.

story continues below
story continues below

Seeking positive stories about the Colorado was key. "People are really looking for inspiration these days," Redford said. "If all you do is ring the alarm bell, people just become tone-deaf."


Twitter: @moviecricket


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.