UC Irvine global water specialist Jay Famiglietti is the unlikely star of a new documentary that opens May 11 in Orange County. “Last Call at the Oasis,” directed by Academy Award winner Jessica Yu of “An Inconvenient Truth” and “Food, Inc.” fame, chronicles dwindling water supplies worldwide, increasing pollution and potential solutions.
“I think California is in trouble,” Famiglietti says in the film. “The combination of climate change, growth and groundwater depletion spells a train wreck.”
Such plain talk has earned the professor used to peer reviews a different kind of praise:
“The delightfully glum hydrologist Jay Famiglietti certainly doesn’t sugarcoat the topic, or our future,” wrote a Variety critic.
“Experts chiming in … include droll, deadpan UC Irvine hydrologist Jay Famiglietti,” read a San Francisco International Film Festival program note.
The movie opens Friday at Irvine’s Edwards University Town Center, with screenings at 1:20, 4:30, 7:10 and 9:30 p.m. Media passes are available for the 1:20 p.m. show. Famiglietti will conduct a Q-and-A session with interested audience members after the 7:10 p.m. shows on May 11 and 12. He also is available for interviews this week.
A professor of Earth system science and civil & environmental engineering who heads the University of California Center for Hydrologic Modeling, Famiglietti has collected data for years via a NASA satellite mission called GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment). He provides much of the research underpinning one of the film’s main messages – that humans are using up water faster than it can be replenished.
That’s a stark departure from the familiar cycle of precipitation taught to schoolchildren, in which raindrops fall from the sky, the water nourishes the Earth and runs into rivers that flow to the ocean, and then it evaporates back up into the clouds.
Producer Elise Pearlstein, who was nominated for an Academy Award for “Food, Inc.,” said she’d read newspaper articles about Famiglietti’s work and was struck that he was researching both regional and global water supplies, from Sacramento to Northern India.
“It was one-stop shopping,” Pearlstein said. She added that it was a pleasure working with someone more concerned about the subject matter than about rolling cameras.
For his part, Famiglietti said making the movie was a fantastic experience: “Elise and Jessica are extremely dedicated, wonderful storytellers and filmmakers. The final result exceeded anything I ever could have anticipated.”
About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Led by Chancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UCI is among the most dynamic campuses in the University of California system, with nearly 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 1,100 faculty and 9,000 staff. Orange County’s second-largest employer, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $4 billion. For more UCI news, visit www.today.uci.edu.
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