Past Event

Above Water by Aïssa Maïga - Being in the World Film Festival

September 14, 2022
7:00 PM - 9:30 PM
Teachers College Columbia University, 525 W. 120 St., New York, NY 10027 Cowin Auditorium

Documentary followed by a discussion and Q&A with Upmanu Lall and Rhiannon Stephens, moderated by Shanny Peer


From one end of the globe to the other, water is becoming increasingly scarce. For a billion people, access to safe drinking water is extremely limited… creating a global crisis with huge consequences. As a result, millions of families spend their lives trying to get access to water. Above Water focuses on 12-year-old Houlaye, who lives in a village in Tatis, Niger, and the families and community around her. She walks for several miles with other children every day to fetch water from a well. Water is abundant during the rainy season, but disappears during the dry season. However, two hundred meters below the surface, there is a water source that exceeds their imagination. Houlaye’s aunt Suri eventually convinces an NGO to build a well in the village. It brings the promise of a new life for these villagers who, unknowingly, had been above water all along. This film was selected for the Festival de Cannes in 2021.

To watch the trailer please click here 

Aïssa Maïga is a French actress and director. She was born in Senegal to a Senegambian mother and a Malian father, an acclaimed journalist. When she was four years old, she and her family moved to France where she later discovered her acting vocation. Aïssa has worked with a number of internationally renowned directors, including Michel Gondry (Mood Indigo), Abderrahmane Sissako (Bamako), and Michael Haneke (Code Unknown and Caché). Maïga is also an advocate for inclusion and has been vocal about racial discrimination in the film industry throughout her career. She directed two documentary films in 2021, Regard noir, and Marcher sur l’eau.

The discussion following the film will include Upmanu Lall and Rhiannon Stephens. 

Dr. Upmanu Lall is the Director of the Columbia Water Center and the Alan and Carol Silberstein Professor of Engineering. He has broad interests in hydrology, climate dynamics, water resource systems analysis, risk management and sustainability.

Rhiannon Stephens is an Associate Professor of History at Columbia who specializes in the history of precolonial and early colonial East Africa. 

This screening is part of Being in the World: People and the Planet in French and Francophone Cinema, a film festival curated and presented by Columbia Maison Française, with additional support provided by Cultural Services of the French Embassy, Columbia Climate School, Knapp Family Foundation, Paul LeClerc Centennial Fund, Columbia University Institute for Ideas and Imagination, Columbia Global Centers | Paris, Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities, Alliance Program, and European Institute.

Contact Information

Clara Wilhelm