National Geographic Events

All Roads Film Project

The Well: Water Voices from Ethiopia
2012 All Roads Film Festival

  • Date
    September 30, 2012
  • Location Washington, D.C.
  • Price NG MEMBER: $8 / 9-PART SERIES PLUS LAUNCH PARTY: $73 GENERAL PUBLIC: $10 / 9-PART SERIES PLUS LAUNCH PARTY: $91

Past Event

Photo: The Well: Water Voices From Ethiopia
oto: The Well: Water Voices From Ethiopia

Photos courtesy of the filmmaker

Photo: Paolo Barberi and Riccardo Russo

Photo: Paolo Barberi and Riccardo Russo

Photos courtesy of filmmakers

Directed by Paolo Barberi and Riccardo Russo
Documentary / Italy / 2011 / 56 minutes / Oromo with English subtitles

Each year, when the dry season reaches its peak in Southern Ethiopia, the Borana herders gather with their livestock around their ancient wells, known as “singing wells.” Young shepherds form human chains, allowing them to reach the depths of the well and bring up the water. Their hard work is accompanied by a song which seems to draw the great herds as they slowly come near, after days of walking across a drought-ridden land. The ancient protocol and management of these wells has allowed them to survive but during the long annual droughts, when thousands of people and animals move nearer to water, their ancient practice becomes jeopardized.

Through interaction with several characters from this region, the film introduces us to a unique water-management system that allows the Borana shepherds to manage the small quantity of available water as the property and right of everyone. Nobody can be denied access to water, neither the herders nor an enemy tribe in need. Although control over water resources in many parts of the world has moved toward privatization and access to drinkable water is still not considered a fundamental human right, the Borana’s extraordinary system guarantees general and indiscriminate access to water in one of the driest inhabited regions on Earth. Unfortunately the threat of privatization is constant. The documentary revolves around the ancient Erder wells, and difficulty to the long-awaited rain.
Co-hosted with The Documentary Center at the George Washington University

Screened with the following three short films:
Makwa Mee Nuun, Dharavi Diary, and Pow.wow.wow.

A discussion with directors Paolo Barberi and Riccardo Russo will follow the screenings.

Paolo Barberi, an anthropologist and filmmaker, learned the basics of editing and shooting as grant-holder at the Visual Anthropology Laboratory “Diego Carpitella” – Sapienza University of Rome.His research focuses on urban studies and visual and media anthropology. He founded the Esplorare la Metropoli Researchers and Filmmakers Association together with Riccardo Russo in 2004.

Riccardo Russo is an Italian independent filmmaker working in the field of social documentary production.
With a Ph.D. in human geography and a specialization in audiovisuals for human rights, he founded the Esplorare la Metropoli Researchers and Filmmakers Association together with Paolo Barberi in 2004. During the last years he created several publications and documentary films on socio-environmental themes and human rights, in Europe, South America, Africa, and Oceania.

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