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While one pandemic rages on, Ellen Page — the Juno and Umbrella Academy star-turned-director —is fighting a second pandemic of environmental racism with her Netflix documentary There’s Something in the Water.
The doc, now on the streamer after premiering at TIFF, marks Page’s directorial debut (along with co-director Ian Daniel) and is based on Ingrid Waldron’s book of the same name, detailing the climate issues in her native Nova Scotia as industrial waste pollutes the surrounding minority communities.
Several of the issues in the film are the same ones being revealed now during the coronavirus crisis, she says, as “it’s a similar conversation in terms of profit over people — whether it’s a climate crisis or the placement of landfills and hazardous sites being put next to predominantly indigenous and black communities and low-income communities. You’re seeing that the consequences and degree of suffering mostly impacts marginalized individuals, which is clearly what’s happening right now.”
Page adds that it’s during times like these that more privileged and less-affected people see “how the system not only doesn’t work for so many, it causes extraordinary harm to so many. Similar to environmental racism, it’s making it very clear that low-income marginalized communities suffer the consequences disproportionately to a far greater degree.” This is also true for some of the women featured in the documentary fighting against the large corporations that pollute their lands — including Louise Delilse, Dorene Bernard and Michelle Francis-Denny — who are among those who don’t have access to clean water at a time when washing one’s hands is the key to staying healthy.
The actress said she was moved to make the documentary after reading Waldron’s book and being horrified that she didn’t know about the environmental problems happening in her homeland’s minority communities. She originally thought of just filming short clips to put online before turning the footage into a feature: “This has all been about elevating the individual women’s voices who have been resisting, trying to create change and protect their communities for a long, long time — that their voices deserve to be heard because they’re just extraordinary people.”
While on her climate crusade, Page also calls out others, including Greta Thunberg and Jane Fonda, who have used their platform to call attention to environmental issues.
“Many indigenous communities all over the world and Canada have been talking about this for a long, long time, and I hope their voices continue to be heard more and more,” she says. “What Greta has done has created such a massive impact on the world and in particular inspired so many young people, giving so many people hope — I think a lot of people do feel a sense of hopelessness, so needless to say that’s important. And for her entire career Jane Fonda has done so much and it’s always empowering when someone with her degree of privilege and platform is taking their time to create awareness and change.”
There’s Something in the Water is streaming now on Netflix.
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