A Critical Analysis of the documentary: Elemental

Elemental, a 2012 documentary directed by Gayatri Roshan and Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee, follows three characters as they try to make a positive impact on the world. Rajendra Singh, an Indian government employee who wants to save the polluted Ganges River, is one of them. Another is Eriel Deranger, an activist who is fighting certain oil companies in Canada who are damaging the Tar Sands. Finally, an Australian businessman named Jay Harman is attempting to mitigate climate change by reducing fossil fuel consumption and purifying air and water. The documentary illustrates the challenges that the postmodern heroes of environment face as they struggle to make the environment better. The three heroes faces opposition from capitalist forces that do not want change because of the political-charged economy.
Observably, the film demonstrates the challenges faced in the struggle to redeem a destroyed environment. The capitalism, or rather the money economy, has made it impossible for advocates of the environment to promote change. For example, Harman’s wife criticizes him saying that he is a mere dreamer. Even though she does not undermine him, the attitude she has on Harman is an indication of the challenges that heroes face. At the same time, there is a scene in the documentary where he tries to convince an investor but seems not to impress him. According to the investor, there is possibility that he might invest money in a project that will not work. Notably, the money-issue becomes evident. Rather than looking at the matter from an environmental perspective, many characters look at it from the economic angle, and thus the fight to save the environment fails.
Similarly, Deranger faces rejection from her employer because of her tough fight against the tar sands. Ironically, her employer company, the rainforest Action Network, should be involved in environmental protection but it does not. Instead, it dismisses the heroine. At the same time, Singh faces criticism from the community members of Ganges who feel that he is getting involved in matters that do not concern him. They tell him to “go clean up another town.” Apparently, the idea of an outsider, as they regard him, poses a threat to their economic livelihood. They know that the construction of a hydroelectric dam would bring jobs and electricity. However, they do not see the negative side where the environment gets destroyed. Singh does not give up but the challenge is real because the locals do not comprehend his environmental beliefs.
Evidently, the film tries to create a balance between the realities of seeking to improve the environment and lack of capacity on the side of the proponents. For example, the “impeller” which imitates the whirlpool seems not to work at all despite the big talk by the environmentalist. Harman, fruitlessly, sets up a demonstration which backfires and send a message to the financial facilitators that it is a hopeless project. Considerably, the desire he claims to have on improving the environment is convincing. Also, Singh seems to complicate his pursuit to make Ganges River free from pollution. He introduces the aspect of religion when he talks about making the river sacred. Hence, it shifts from being a matter of environmental protection to religious struggle. In other words, the documentary demonstrates the complex issue of protecting the environment as well as the challenges the activists face. It shows that the struggle should echo what Deranger calls it do or die.

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