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The makers of Thirst ask, "Is water a human right, or is it a commodity?"

Wednesday, Jan 22 2003
Around 15 percent of American water is privately owned, with the rest in the hands of public systems. There are those in commerce and government who would like to see that ratio reversed, but not Berkeley filmmakers Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman. "Did you know you're already paying more for your bottle of water than you do for your gallon of gas?" Kaufman asks. She frames the thesis for Thirst, the duo's feature-length documentary-in-progress about contemporary water politics, this way: "Is water a human right, or is it a commodity?"

Water is not just a U.S. issue, of course, and Snitow and Kaufman (Secrets of Silicon Valley) are now in Rajasthan filming a thousand Indian women meeting to create a national women's water association. (In rural India, getting the water is women's work, so they're more keen than the men to bring clean water close to home.) "The goal is to interconnect an American story with an international story," Kaufman explains. "People think water is a local issue, but in fact it's both local and global." The pair have already trekked to Washington, D.C., to interview the World Bank's senior water adviser, John Briscoe, as well as Peter Cook, the lobbyist for the 200-member National Association of Water Companies. "It's a totally political film," Kaufman says unapologetically. "The shift in ownership is happening rapidly, and under the radar of public discussion. This is a huge issue that's not getting the coverage it needs." Snitow and Kaufman are aiming to finish Thirst by early 2004.

Mondo Trasho This summer will be chockablock with sequels, and even UC Berkeley has the bug. "Born to Be Bad 2," slated for May 9-11 on the UC campus, builds on last year's conference and movie marathon, which lured academics from as far away as London and "trash cinema" fans from around the bay. Mikita Brottman of the Maryland Institute College of Art, author of the 1997 book Offensive Films: Toward an Anthropology of Cinema Vomitif (which I sincerely hope is illustrated), will deliver the keynote talk. Also on the invite list: legendary filmmaker and gossipmeister Kenneth Anger.

Tamao Nakahara, the graduate student (in Italian studies) who dreamed up "BTBB," wrote in her call for presentations, "In honor of Mother's Day, May 11, we welcome any papers that may deal with sexual mothers, monstrous mothers, etc." In that vein, the Pacific Film Archive's Steve Seid, who will program the weekend's flicks, has already slotted Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan, an early-'70s Chinese martial arts film. In this little-known classic of action and sexploitation, the most popular prostitute in a brothel challenges the madam for power -- and then becomes her lover. Now that's entertainment!

Edge of the City Bowling for Columbine has sold more tickets at the Embarcadero Center Cinema than anywhere else in the country. The S.F. engagement has earned $500,000, or 3 percent of the doc's $17 million total cost. ... Adam Savage, a local model-maker whose work has been seen in A.I. and other sci-fi extravaganzas, co-hosts Mythbusters, a Discovery Channel series premiering Thursday. Remember the girl Goldfinger suffocated by painting her body gold? That's one of the scientific curiosities and urban legends Savage will test. ... S.F. IndieFest hosts a benefit and launch party Saturday at Jezebel's Joint, 510 Larkin (at Turk). The program for the fifth annual fest, which runs Feb. 6-16, hits the streets this week. Get the lowdown at

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Michael Fox


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