Danny Bloom
I seek the truth wherever it lies.

‘The Guardian of Water’ set for dystopian ‘cli-fi’ film debut in Europe in 2021

Yes, you read it right in the headline above: “The Guardian of Water” is set for a 2021 movie debut in Europe. It’s a cli-fi story for a global audience and packs a punch.

Finnish film director Saara Saarela has been hired to direct the movie based on the 2012 cli-fi novel ”Memory of Water” by internationally-acclaimed Finnish novelist Emmi Itaranta (now based in Britain). The English translation of the novel was first released in 2015.

The movie will be based on Itäranta’s award-winning novel and is filming as you read this page. Retitled as “The Guardian of Water” (”Veden Vartija” in Finnish), it is being helmed by Saarela, who is a professor of film directing at Aalto University in Finland.

The movie is a futuristic fable situated in a time of water shortages, featuring locations from Estonia, Germany and Norway, according to film industry sources.

“We are following a hero’s journey but also making a moral study and a social statement, and together with the whole ensemble we have worked hard in creating the futuristic world of this movie,” the director shares. “I’m excited to be able to give life to this story with a most contemporary feel. On top of this we have two excellent young actors as the protagonists of the story.”

”The Guardian of Water” is a story about Noria (played by actor Saga Sarkola), the new tea master of the village. In a world of severe drought, Noria is introduced to her father’s greatest secret: the location of the hidden spring from which the water for the teahouse derives. With her friend Sanja (played by actor Mimosa Willamo) she decides to find out, if there are more hidden springs, hidden by the dictatorship. Could the world still be saved? The movie is being adapted from the novel by Itaranti with a script by Ilja Rautsi.

Rautsi’s screenplay is based on Itäranta’s modern cli-fi classic first published in Finnish in 2012  and later in English three years later and now translated in more than 20 different languages around the world. This blogger interviewed Itaranta when her novel first came out in 2015 and she agreed the book was part of the cli-fi genre and said she liked the term. See part of our conversation below.

Some shop talk here: The movie stars Saga Sarkola, Mimosa Willamo, Lauri Tilkanen, Pekka Strang and Minna Haapkylä. The cinematographer is Kjell Lagerroos and the set designer is Otso Linnalaakso. The movie is produced by Misha Jaari and Mark Lwoff from Bufo, co-produced by Estonian Allfilm, German Pandora Film Produktion and Norwegian Mer Film. The release date is scheduled for sometime in mid to late 2021 with a European debut, before going international to movie fans worldwide.

I asked Emmi in an email interview in 2015 if she considered her novel to be cli-fi or sci-fi.

”When I first began writing, I didn’t think of genre labels,” Emmi
said. “A few chapters into the story I realized that it could be
categorized as science fiction. Since climate change is a central part
of the backstory of ‘Memory of Water’, I think it definitely fits
within the definition of ‘cli fi’, so calling it a Finnish ‘cli fi’
novel would not be out of place.”

My next question went like this:

From your point of view, what is the difference between sci-fi and
cli-fi? Or can they be the same? Do we need to differentiate between
the two genres?

Or is it possible that the two genres can be combined in cases where the
main theme is climate change or global warming set in the future?

”I think of cli-fi as a subgenre of sci fi, although I question the necessity of genre labels in the first place,” Emmi said. “Genre labels are often artificial and hard to define — you probably won’t find two people who agree entirely on the definition of science fiction. But climate-themed speculative fiction is clearly on the rise, simply
because fiction always reflects reality in some way.”

When asked what year or date her novel was set in, the near future or
distant future or when, she replied:

“I left the year unmentioned in the story on purpose and would prefer
to keep it that way. I believe each reader’s interpretation of how far
in the future the events take place reflects their own stance on how
urgent an issue they feel climate change is. It might be thousands of
years, or hundreds.”
About the Author
Danny Bloom is editor of The Cli-Fi Report at www.cli-fi.net. Danny graduated from Tufts University in Boston in 1971 with a major in Yiddish Literature. A newspaper editor and reporter since his days in Alaska, Japan and Taiwan, he has lived and worked in 14 countries and speaks French, Japanese and Chinese. He hopes to live until 2032, when his tombstone will read "I came, I saw, I ate cho-dofu."
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