Glen Baker on Trailing the Floating Schools in Bangladesh

Glenn Baker, the director of Easy Like Water, describes below the extreme conditions during the production of his film, which is part of Stories of Change, an initiative in partnership with the Skoll Foundation that explores the potential of combining the art of nonfiction storytelling with the impact of social entrepreneurship.

Producer/Cameraman Steve Sapienza and I returned to Bangladesh for a month in July and August 2010 to film in the riverside communities served by the floating schools during monsoon season. We explored the many ways climate change is already hitting Bangladesh.

Although it was rainy season, the country was experiencing a drought. At the same time, nearby Pakistan was devastated by flooding. Such extremes and unpredictable patterns of weather are one hallmark of climate change.

We traveled to the Sundarbans mangrove forest on the Bay of Bengal to learn more about the growing incidence of tiger attacks. Sea level is rising here, and the salt water has forced rice farmers to become shrimp farmers. But two massive cyclones in the last three years swamped the region, and the sea surge remains, making shrimp farming untenable. Now many people live on elevated mud berms, and have turned to fishing out of necessity.

Overfishing is forcing the fishermen to enter the mangrove jungle, where Royal Bengal tigers increasingly attack them. Flooded out of the forest, the tigers have taken to entering villages at night, where mobs will sometimes corner the tigers and beat them to death. Here we have one of the most endangered species on earth in direct conflict with villagers, both threatened by the new climate reality.

In the last year, we have been privileged to pitch the film at the Toronto Documentary Forum at HotDocs; to film at COP15 in Copenhagen; to appear on Al-Jazeera English and LinkTV; and to welcome the generous support of the Putnam Foundation.

Lead photo: