Directed by Marina Zenovich
Grade: Four stars
It turns out the true sequel to “Chinatown” was always right here in reality.
“Water & Power: A California Heist,” a documentary that traces the history of the California water wars, will leave you with the same creeping sense of noir dread that the classic movie always delivers. Tracing the history of backroom deals and power plays in a clear, easy-to-understand format, the documentary (which will air on National Geographic Channel later this year) turns out to be far more aptly named than I could have imagined when I sat down.
Starting in 2015 before jumping back to the earliest days of California’s water system, the documentary shows step-by-step how the system broke down and was taken advantage of. The science is easy to understand, the approach both surprisingly balanced and utterly chilling, and the visuals all beautifully planned. You will want to drink water at several points throughout the documentary, mostly out of sheer gratitude that you can.
It also touches on the fact that the basic problems facing California – i.e., there’s not enough water, and companies are buying up what little there is – is happening everywhere. There’s an absolutely terrifying line from one of the water brokers about the people who are willing to “invest” in water being the ones who should enjoy the benefits is quietly terrifying.
It wouldn’t have been out of place coming out of the mouth of any movie villain I can think of.