Elemental finds directors Gayatri Roshan and Emmanuel Vaughn Lee choosing three Echo-Crusaders, from different regions of the Commonwealth, to be the subjects of their film. The story follows the three as they try to bring change to harsh realities of today’s environmental climate. One of these individuals is Rajendra Singh, a commissioner with the Ganges River Basin Authority, who goes on a pilgrimage of purification along the Ganges. Singh attempts to stop the damming of the river by getting the citizens to stop polluting it. It is an uphill battle as corporations, like a leather factory in Kanpur, India, are consistently spewing toxins into the land. Roshan and Lee’s camera captures the drainage pipes of the factory as dark waste seep from the plant and into the Ganges River. The result is a thick layer of dark sludge floating on the top of the river. Taking samples from the river, Singh’s test show that significant levels of acid, chromium and lead are found in the water. The most disturbing aspect of this is the fact that the Ganges River is the source of 60% of the countries drinking supply.
Eriel Deranger is a member of the Athabasca Chipewyan Band working for the Rainforest Action Network in Edmonton, Alberta. Her focus is bringing attention to the development of the Northern Alberta tar sands. She notes that the extraction zone in the tar sands, which is bigger than Wales and England combined, takes 4 tons of dirt to produce 1 barrel of oil. Furthermore it takes a mixture of highly toxic chemicals to extract the oil. During a talk at a conference, Eriel shows images of the excavation areas, the smokestacks and the mixing process needed for producing oil. The shots in her presentation eerily mirror the plight that Singh is enduring in the Ganges.
At another conference we meet inventor Jay Harman, a nature enthusiast who has developed a keen sense of the intricacies of nature. Charting the swirling movement of everything in nature, he created a Vortex ring for industrial items. This allows corporations to use equipment that is quieter, use less energy and require a significantly smaller amount of chemicals to maintain purity levels. These types of inventions have drawn the interest from financiers and governments all over the world.
The production is beautifully shot. The scenes along the Ganges featuring images of the citizens doing laundry, bathing and conducting community activity are stunning. The night time shots of cultural events along the river are bright and colourful. The sweeping shots over the tar sands and the work sites in Alberta are razor sharp. The highlight of the piece comes when Roshan and Lee use underwater camera work to nicely evoke Harman’s sense of comfort at sea. The sea creatures, underwater vegetation, and the richness of the water itself are astounding.
Elemental is a solid production that follows the right number of activists for the brisk running time. The three subjects have the drive to both foster change and bring attention to their causes. Though they have a long way to go to reach their main goals, it is clear that they are trending in the right direction. Elemental is a film that I can recommend.