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Award-winning filmmaker opens Aral Sea exhibition in Lisbon

International award-winning Catalan filmmaker Isabel Coixet opens exhibition Aral – The Lost Sea and her moving documentary about the consequences of one of the world’s greatest ecological catastrophes, writes CHRIS GRAEME.

The Aral Sea, situated in Central Asia on the borders between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, used to be the fourth largest salt water lake in the world, but human intervention has almost made it vanish, reducing its volume of water by 80%.

A moving documentary created by the award-winning Catalan filmmaker Isabel Coixet, Aral – The Lost Sea (O Mar Perdido), tells the faithful and poignant story about one of the world’s greatest ecological disasters, created when the then Soviet Union decided to divert the rivers feeding into the lake  in order to irrigate cotton fields.

The sea largely dried up, destroying the once thriving fishing and tourism industries along its banks.

“I had been collecting magazine clippings about the disaster for years, after I heard about this sea in Central Asia that was disappearing, because it upset me,” says Isabel, who asked the question, “how can man allow an entire sea to just disappear?”

When Roca’s We Are Water Foundation approached the filmmaker asking her if she wanted to do a film, she suggested the Aral Sea and asked if she could go there.

This was a different kind of project from her career in directing films with actors like Penelope Cruz and Ben Kingsley (Je t’aime – 2006) or Lili Taylor and Andrew McCarthy (Things I Never Told You – 1996). Her recent works include Listening to the Judge (2010), about the Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón’s struggle against corruption and terrorism.

“I wanted to see how the locals lived and find out why this happened and how a whole way of life just disappeared,” she said, adding that she doesn’t get involved with just any private organisations unless she feels they really do care about a specific issue and have a proven track record to prove it.

“We went twice and although I had already been in several African countries and the former Yugoslavia during the conflicts, I had never seen anything that touched me quite like this,” she says.

The exhibition, designed by Makoto Fukuda, which features haunting photography from Jordi Azategui, is open to groups of five to 20 persons with free guided tours from Mondays-Fridays hourly from 11am to 4pm until April 28 at the Roca Lisboa Gallery, Restauradores, Lisbon.

For further information contact the reception or visit www.rocalisboagallery.com

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