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Joshua Spencer on his film “The Fight For Water”

Joshua Spencer on his film "The Fight For Water"

In his film, “The Fight For Water” – available in its entirety at the bottom of this page courtesy of SnagFilms – filmmaker Joshua Spencer takes a look at the untold story of contamination in the Amazon.  

The Fight For Water

Writer/Director: Joshua Spencer

66 mins.

The full film is available free on 

SnagFilms (and at the end of this article). This interview with Joshua Spencer is part of a series of SnagFilm filmmaker profiles that will be featured weekly on indieWIRE.  

[Editor’s Note:  SnagFilms is the parent company of Indiewire.]

Your movie: In 140 characters or less, what’s it about? 

It is a real-life murder-mystery complete with paramilitary death squads, negligent oil companies, and corrupt environmental agencies.

OK: Now tell us what it’s really about.

The documentary is about what is happening in Ecuador, what is happening in the Amazon. It is called the fight for water because while there is an abundance of water in the rainforest, in the places used for oil production the groundwater is contaminated and the rivers are too.

So tell us about yourself. What’s your background? Why did you want to make movies?

My background is not so important. I come from a privileged middle-class American family. I wanted to make films ever since I discovered that you could put a series of photographs together and tell a story. I am fascinated with light and equally fascinated with humans.

What inspired you to make this movie?

It came out of a dream I had over a decade ago. I wanted to show the other side, like crossing over to illuminate the invisible strings that connect us.

What was your single biggest challenge in developing or producing it?

Many challenges. When you dive into this type of subject, paranoia naturally comes into play. Some of it is invented but some of it is very real and disheartening. The biggest challenge, after getting the tapes out safely was not going crazy while putting together the story. The whole time you worry about what has happened to the people in your monitor who are still totally f**ked.

What do you think SnagFilms audiences will respond to most in your movie?

I think that audiences will appreciate the immediacy and honesty in the film.

Were any specific films inspirational to you while making the movie?

Films like Resnais’ Night and Fog, Marker’s San Soleil, the Maysles brothers’ Salesman, Kopple’s Harlan County, USA, Rouch’s film’s from Africa, Flaverty’s Louisiana Story, Guzman’s Battle of Chile, Solanas’ Hour of the Furnaces, Jarmusch’s Dead Man, Morris’ Fog of War, just to name the ones that come to mind now. While editing I was blown away by Jason Kohn’s Send a Bullet. That said I really tried to ignore all those films and tell the story the only way it made sense to me.

Future projects in the pipeline? Tell us!

I have three projects in the pipeline. The first is a story about fishermen on a tiny Caribbean Island, I have shot material but need funding to move forward. The second is an intimate look at how mental illness is treated in America. The last, my foray into the realm of fiction, is a love story about a young American boy coming to age in the Spain of the late nineties.

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