The water crisis documentary Last Call at the Oasis won an "Outstanding Achievement in Filmmaking" award at the just-concluded Newport Beach Film Festival.
Surely helping propel Academy Award winning filmmaker Jessica Yu's production, which opens in Irvine Friday, is UC Irvine hydrologist Jay Famiglietti, who appears on camera to cold you-know-what on California's water future.
"I think California is in trouble," Famiglietti says in the film. "The combination of climate change, growth and groundwater depletion spells a train wreck."
His plain talk prompted a Variety critic to write, "The delightfully glum hydrologist Jay Famiglietti certainly doesn't sugarcoat the topic, or our future." The San Francisco International Film Festival program note described the professor as "droll, deadpan."
Last Call at the Oasis chronicles increasing pollution, dwindling water supplies worldwide and potential solutions. Other interviewees include environmental activist Erin Brockovich and Macarthur Fellow and Pacific Institute co-founder Peter Gleick.
The film is written and directed by Yu, whose 1997 short Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O'Brien won the Oscar. She previously had two other films roll at the Newport Beach festival, 2007's Ping Pong Playa and 2004's In the Realms of the Unreal.
Her latest opens Friday at Irvine's Edwards University Town Center, with screenings at 1:20, 4:30, 7:10 and 9:30 p.m. Famiglietti is scheduled to conduct an audience Q&A after Friday and Saturday's 7:10 p.m. shows.
His research has found humans are using up water faster than it can be replenished. Last Call at the Oasis producer Elise Pearlstein, who got an Academy Award nomination herself for Food, Inc., read newspaper articles about Famiglietti's work and enlisted him for the project.
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"Elise and Jessica are extremely dedicated, wonderful storytellers and filmmakers," says Famiglietti, in a UCI statement. "The final result exceeded anything I ever could have anticipated."
Here is the trailer: