This week we’re shining a spotlight on ‘The Weight of Water’, by filmmakers Deej Phillips and Neelima Vallangi. ‘The Weight of Water’ documents (in a rather snazzy cinematographic manner) the impacts of climate change and related issues on the lives of people and communities in Nepal.
Curious to find out more?
We spoke to Deej to hear more about his journey, the film, and how the creative arts are responding to the climate crisis.
First, can you tell us about your journey as a filmmaker? How did you come to be filming documentaries?
If I’m honest, I never really expected to be on this path. At college, I studied maths, physics, business…I never really considered the possibility of filmmaking. It was only when I picked up a camera as part of my university studies that I felt a connection to this form of creativity, and really enjoyed it! I met a guy in a reggae band and began filming his gigs, and from there it really just snowballed. Fast forward a few years, I had established a production company and was starting to build my career, filming mainly online content for well-known organizations.
However, I wanted to do something more than filming big brands, so I began to explore other, more personal, forms of filmmaking. Climate change was very present in my mind at this time, however, it really wasn’t something people were talking about. The climate crisis is so scary that sometimes you just ignore it and put it to the back of your mind. Over time I found myself increasingly drawn to bringing climate issues to light. A few years ago I decided to make the big leap and threw myself into climate change documentary filmmaking. It was then that I met my co-director and producer, Neelima, and we began to explore making a film together that would shed light on people’s experiences of the climate crisis.
What made you decide to focus on Nepal and Nepali people’s experiences?
I’m half Indian and Neelima is full Indian so we both have a connection to that region of the world. We chose Nepal for a number of reasons…
Nepal is incredibly geographically diverse; from the Himalayas to the lowlands in Terai. We could film paddy fields alongside glaciers in a single country – showing the multitude of hazardous events taking place in the country due to climate change.
Nepal is also one of the countries most affected by climate change, whilst their contribution to global emissions is, and historically has been, tiny! The gross unfairness of this is clear. It felt important to share these stories and help others in more developed countries to connect with the real impacts of climate change.
It’s also just a wonderful country with a rich culture and history, and such friendly people. We wanted to convey this in the film.
So introduce us to the ‘Weight of Water’: what issues does this documentary explore?
The Weight of Water is a feature-length documentary. It focuses on three stories that show how individuals, families and communities are being impacted by climate change today.
The main theme is water, and how the change in climate is contributing to issues such as flooding, desertification and water scarcity. Although the main focus is the impact of climate change on people, the film also highlights how climate change is exacerbating other issues like gender equality, access to health and education, uncontrolled development and poor infrastructure.
One of the stories in the film is that of Kamala. Kamala has to walk for three hours every day from her remote village in Salyantar to get safe drinking water from a mountain spring. It’s heavy work, and with water becoming increasingly scarce due to changing climate, she must walk further than before to reach a water source. As a result, she is suffering from major health issues, notably uterine prolapse, caused by heavy labour post-childbirth. The changing climate is therefore exaggerating and contributing to existing inequalities.
What’s your hope for people who watch this film?
We want you to feel informed and motivated by watching the film.
We really wanted Nepali people to tell their stories in their own words so we spent a lot of time in Nepal before we even thought about picking up a camera. We began the project by speaking to different community leaders, artists, farmers, climate activists, politicians, scientists – a real range of people who shared what they think is happening, what they’re experiencing, how they feel about it, and what they see as the biggest issues. They provide a personal perspective on the challenges in Nepal, with the broader context and additional knowledge provided by climate experts. Viewers will also see some really beautiful shots of emotional moments, incredibly sad moments, even comedic moments! The film isn’t designed to tell you what to do, but to seed curiosity and encourage viewers to engage with the issues highlighted.
Check out Deej’s work and look out for the release of ‘The Weight of Water’ in 2022 on Deej’s website, or follow him on Instagram and Youtube to find out more. You can explore Neelima’s work on her website and Instagram
Check out these other creative endeavors:
- This podcast tells the stories of the climate crisis and how people are taking action. Deej has been interviewed for a future episode!
- This Youtube series – a simple and compelling series of important stories about the climate crisis
- The Creative Climate Movement that champions the creative community as they inspire and promote further environmental action
Take action and show you care about climate justice – if you work in the creative industry, sign up to the Creative Climate Disclosure and consider how you can use your skills to support the movement!