LOS ANGELES Premiere
1:12 m / Doc Feature / U.S.A.
Tuesday, November 12, 2019
Laemmle Music Hall | 6:00pm to 7:15pm
You might think America is free, but at its heart is a great injustice. Access to clean water is being segregated. Armed only with facts and their illnesses, extraordinary citizens take on industry and government, risking arrest to protect water. From Flint to the Navajo Nation, via Standing Rock, this is their story.
Director: Leana Hosea
Cast: Rich Smith, Lauretta Prevost, Mary Lyons, John Thynne
Screenwriter: Leana Hosea
Producer: Leana Hosea
Includes a post screening Q&A with the director(s)
Leana Hosea is a multi-media journalist with over 12 years of experience working for the BBC in global news and current affairs. Leana has reported and produced several documentaries for the BBC. For her short film Rhino Wars Leana persuaded poachers to talk about their trade openly on camera for the first time. Leana produced a BBC film following the Muslim televangelist Amr Khaled, who has more followers than Oprah, as he travelled around Yemen combating extremism. She secured interviews with President Ali Abdullah Saleh and Osama Bin Laden’s former bodyguard. The TV report she filmed on the first day of the Egyptian revolution in Tahrir Square, won the correspondent Jon Leyne a nomination for the Bayeux War Reporting Award. As the Middle East Business Reporter she shot and edited her own TV pieces from across the region and is one of the few journalists to film inside Qatari labor camps.
In September 2016, Leana was awarded the prestigious Knight Wallace Journalism Fellowship at the University of Michigan to research Flint and Navajo Nation water issues. She took classes in Environmental Justice, Native American Literature and big data journalism. She’s now an inaugural Media Fellow at the School of Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan. She ran a media lab for environmental justice graduate students, to give them film making skills to enable their environmental work.
I’ve been a BBC journalist in International News for the past twelve years and I’ve covered a lot of incredible and harrowing stories. I was breaking news in Cairo, Egypt reporting on The Arab Spring from day one in Tahrir Square, the war in Gaza and the crisis in Yemen. However, I have never seen anything like what I found when I visited the Navajo Nation. Communities are living amid piles of radioactive waste, drinking uranium contaminated water. I was waiting for an interviewee, but she did not turn up. I thought perhaps she had got a flat tire, but I later discovered she had died that morning of kidney cancer, mostly likely due to the uranium contaminated water she drank all her life. This story has touched me like no other. Yet no one I spoke to afterwards seemed to know anything about it. It has not got the media attention it so deserves. Across in Michigan, one of the most water rich places in the world, the town of Flint has been poisoned by its water. Just like on the Navajo reservation the authorities knew and did not act to protect people. The news does not do justice to their plight or convey the story adequately. I came to America in September 2016 on a prestigious Knight-Wallace Fellowship for mid-career Journalists at the University of Michigan to research water contamination issues on the Navajo land and in Flint. I took classes in environmental justice, Native American literature and history, as well as some toxicology. I developed a deep bond with Ojibwe elder and water carrier, Mary Lyons, who introduced me to indigenous communities and acted as the film’s cultural consultant. I attended many ceremonies and was adopted as a daughter, according to Indian tradition. I mostly worked alone filming ‘Thirst For Justice’ over two years and gained unprecedented access and trust in the Navajo and Flint communities – both of which had become distrustful of the media and outsiders. In the rough cut showing of my film to Flint residents, I got their seal of approval that the film accurately portrayed their story, in a way no other media had. On the strength of my work I was awarded a second fellowship at the University of Michigan’s School of Environment and Sustainability. I received one-to-one training on taking radiation readings and samples from Nuclear Engineering professor Kim Kearfott and used her geiger counter to get reliable results. As a journalist of 12 years I understand the challenges of environmental health stories and the need to marry science with human stories to make a compelling and accurate film. So I secured interviews with the leading experts and players involved. The School of Environment and Sustainability are building online, open access, multi-media education materials to act as a guide for the film’s audience about how to investigate and act upon their water issues. This will ensure the long life of the film, it’s relevance and impact, wherever it is watched. What’s unique about ‘Thirst For Justice’ compared to other water films, is how it tightly weaves together water issues in urban/rural, indigenous/non indigenous communities through the women who are leading the emerging water justice movement.