Tikkun Olam and the Drought

by Jackie Cohen July 17, 2015


drought docuWhile studying abroad in Florence during the spring, Chapman University film student Sam Furie tried to keep informed about what was going on back home. Suddenly, he realized that drought articles were becoming more and more prominent.

Upon returning to the United States, he contacted his old friend, Jacob Morrison, who is studying film at the University of Southern California with the idea of creating a documentary about the drought, called “Rivers’ End.”

“Our interest in water conservation and the drought started with this film. Since we started working on this film, we’ve been becoming incredibly involved,” Morrison says.

The two put together a group of film students, mostly Jewish, including Tucker Cowan and Brian Weisboard.

Furie, who is producing the film, explained that he was already environmentally conscious and that he and Morrison had had the value of tikkun olam (repairing the world) instilled in them in Jewish day school, so they are implementing this value in their film.

All of the people involved in making this film have a personal connection to the drought and a love for nature, according to Furie. He said that “Rivers’ End” is “combining two of our passions,” referring to film and nature.

“We realized that there’s stuff happening that’s sort of beyond our reach that we never knew about,” Furie says. “These rivers being depleted of water and ecosystems being destroyed and I think that sort of stuck out to us and that’s why we want to raise awareness and help and provide solutions for it.”

They began their research via Google, articles online, and books, but claim that their interviews with different sources give them more information than 100 articles, because their sources “know more about the drought than anyone, ” according to Morrison.

They are currently working on getting interviews with politicians, college professors, water companies, and people that are affected by water shortages, among others.

According to Morrison, since there are so many aspects of the drought, they had to choose a focus. He joked that if he didn’t, the film would be 50 hours long. After various interviews, they have decided to focus on the San Joaquin river delta and the effects of taking water from it on the ecosystem around it.

One of the major issues they will include is a discussion on the twin tunnels project, which Gov. Jerry Brown proposed in order to create two 35 mi. long tunnels to bring water from the San Francisco area to Southern California.

They will also cover the question of water usage in the film. According to Morrison, 20 percent of California’s water use comes from cities and 80 percent is used in agriculture. Of the 20 percent of water used in cities, 10 percent is used for landscaping, while the other 10 percent is used indoors.

Morrison explains that people can conserve 400 to 500 gallons of water just by taking short showers or not eating meat, since raising cattle uses so much water.

“It’s not just about conserving water in your home, it is about learning about the big issues and thinking big,” Morrison says.

“People will leave the film having an idea of what they can do,” Furie adds.

These students don’t only talk-the-talk, they walk-the-walk. During the film-making process, they are using sustainable methods. Besides the regular water conservation methods like taking short showers, they are also driving a Prius around California for their interviews, decreasing their carbon footprint.

“There’s no one on the team that doesn’t feel responsibility to take action for the drought personally,” Furie says, “so one of the ways we try to conserve is by trying to be mindful of the way that we use our environment.”

Furie reflects on his experience making “Rivers’ End” so far:

“One of the most interesting parts has been the knowledge that we’ve accumulated. Prior to this, I pretty much knew little to nothing about where my water came from and how much I used and I was environmentally conscious and stuff and I never wasted water, but I never knew the details.”

When asked about future plans for the film, Furie says “we need to focus on making the best film we can and then do our best to get it out there.”

Because the drought is such a timely topic, the crew is already talking to different tv companies about broadcasting their film. They also plan to post it online at some point.

According to Furie and Morrison, they have a few more months of filming left and then a few months of editing before the film is ready for distribution. They expect to release “Rivers’ End” between January and April.

So far, funds “Rivers’ End” have come through grants from the University of Southern California and Chapman University, however, they have started a Kickstarter to raise money for the rest of the film’s expenses. You can donate to “Rivers’ End” by visiting https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1184773314/rivers-end-californias-latest-water-war. Their goal is to raise $10,386 by July 25.

For more information about “Rivers’ End” visit http://www.riversendfilm.com.

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