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WATER AND POWER

USA, 1989 (MIFF 1990)

Director: Pat O'Neill

Years ago, the Owens Valley (260 miles north of Los Angeles) was a flourishing country of farms and ranches. Today it is a dusty, dying and nearly deserted stretch of parched land. Pat O'Neill's Water and Power is not about the Owens Valley, nor even the events surrounding its death at the hands of the Department of Water and Power. Rather, this film is a tremendous iconography of the Southern California whose existence and identity are rooted in the lifeblood artificially feeding it.

Profound and poetic, associative and representational, Water and Power creates a sensual impression of transformations of a city, a desert, an industry, an image from one state to another. Composed of optically layered images, time-lapse photography, scripted text, and spoken word, it alters natural images in time, axis, definition, colour, and, ultimately, perception. O'Neill pushes the aesthetics of Star Wars special effects into unchartered territory to strike a deep poetic chord.

Qualitatively intuitive, this is a deeply personal work from a true visionary. A pioneer in non-narrative filmmaking consistently striving to capture, manipulate, and project an image of purified beauty. Water and Power extends even beyond these goals and articulates not only Pat O'Neill's technical brilliance but also his intense desire to produce a thought-provoking film.

A note by the director: The film was made over a period of years, without a script, relying on the chance confluence of places, people and conditions. It turned out to be very much about water in all of its physical states, and about cyclic motions: the planets, the tides, the implied rotation of the camera on its axis, and the repetitive and often ballistic motion of the performers.

As the editing process went on and new material was continually added, the piece came to dictate its own outlines, and the logic of transitions came to be of primary interest. Stories and progressions rose up out of the material, the written texts appeared, and the ending became the beginning - several times.
- Pat O'Neill

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