Faecal Attraction: Political Economy Of Defecation


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Faecal Attraction: Political Economy Of Defecation
"Faecal Attraction investigates the dynamics of river pollution in India, asking taboo questions and coming up with some startling answers."

Where does water come from? What happens to your waste after you flush the toilet? Most people have no real idea. Most adults find it an embarrassing subject and like to put it out of mind, but that's a big problem when untreated sewage is causing pollution on a massive scale. Faecal Attraction investigates the dynamics of river pollution in India, asking taboo questions and coming up with some startling answers.

It is frequently asserted that water will be at the centre of most major conflicts in the 21st Century, yet most middle class people living in urban areas remain unaware of just how fragile a resource it is. Surely the government is doing the right thing by building more water treatment facilities. Well, perhaps not, if there isn't enough electricity to keep them running or if, in some cases, the parts which have been bought aren't even being assembled.

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Beaurocratic breakdown on a mass scale is here revealed through interviews with a number of professionals each engaged in fighting his own corner, keeping the system going in bits and pieces but - because those pieces don't fit together - largely to no avail. This is interspersed with footage of the sluggish, fetid river where every town tries to dredge up enough fresh water upstream ad dump its waste downstream, adding to the problems for the next in line. Particularly affecting is an interview with a holy man who undertakes the daily religious duty of bathing in the river, yet who is also a scientist and well aware of the dangers he faces when doing so, lamenting that the river itself is dying.

Faecal Attraction is a political film, concerning itself with the plight of the poor who are continually moved on from their shanty towns on the riverbank, scapegoated as polluters; but it is also a practical assessment of the situation and a plea for better management before things get even further toward breaking point. It might sound pretty depressing, but it's enlivened by energetic, innovative direction, creating a strong sense of the character of the river and those who live around it.

This adds to our awareness of the intensity of the crisis, as we see boys leaping and playing in the filthy water, apparently unaware of the risks. It's a wake-up call for government in India and across the developing world, and it's also a fascinating piece of film-making, reminding us how important and how evocative the documentary form can be.

Reviewed on: 12 Jun 2007
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An investigation into river pollution in India.

Director: Pradip Saha

Year: 2007

Runtime: 32 minutes

Country: India


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