This is a documentary that is equal parts about the main character—Dean Kamen, a prolific inventor—and about a cause—clean water. Those two elements add up to create a film that is way bigger than the sum of its parts. The film was warmly received at the recent BendFilm Festival, where we caught up with producer Barry Opper.
Source Weekly: It is interesting using a documentary film as a means of communicating about clean water. Why the choice of this medium to get out the message? Why not a health campaign through TV ads? Or magazine ads?
Barry Opper: First of all, we are filmmakers. Paul Lazarus (the film's director and my fellow producer) and I had worked together for many years. When Paul first heard that Dean Kamen was working on a device that could clean water, could be set down in the tiniest of villages throughout the world and could immediately save lives, he knew that there was an important story to be told. We quickly learned that Dean Kamen was a modern day Thomas Edison and that his story and his life in science was wonderfully inspirational. A feature length documentary was the right medium for us.
SW: There seems to be some of the same appeal from this film that a TED talk has—that is, the combination of a good idea and optimism. It is interesting, though, as many documentaries are more about uncovering some bad truth (like, say, The Cove and dolphin fishing) or a more strident tone of Michael Moore crusading for a cause. This topic could easily have been addressed in that manner, but there seems to have been a clear choice to be more optimistic. Do you remember any of the preproduction discussions that led to this tone?
BO: This is an interesting question because we do see so many documentaries that are about dire problems. These documentaries often win awards but are hard pressed to get the kinds of audiences that would be needed to feed a movement for change. We were lucky with SlingShot that the movie as it was developing offered a bold solution and a very uplifting story. SlingShot became as much about innovation in our society as about water. It has become a call to action. We are getting people in our audiences telling us: "I fought coming to this movie tonight because it was a documentary and I thought it would do nothing but bring me down....I am so glad I let myself be dragged here." Water in our world today is something we are going to have to deal with; a whole lot of people after seeing SlingShot want to be like Dean: a modern day Don Quixote whose windmills are the important crises of our time.
Dir. Paul Lazarus
Fri. Dec. 19, 7 pm
Summit High Auditorium