Skip to main content


Being in the World: Above Water (Marcher sur l’eau)

Climate Series, Being in the World Film Festival

dateSeptember 14, 2022 timeWednesday, 7:00pm–9:15pm EDT location Horace Mann Hall, Cowin Auditorium (Room 147), Teachers College
  • The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities
  • Cultural Services of the French Embassy
  • Columbia Climate School
  • University Institute for Ideas and Imagination
  • Columbia Global Centers | Paris
  • Alliance Program
  • European Institute
  • Knapp Family Foundation
  • Maison Française
email address [email protected]
  • Free and open to the public
  • Registration required. See details.
Three people each carrying several bags walking in the desert

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

Above Water by Aïssa Maïga (2021)Documentary, 89 min

Film in French and other languages with English subtitles.

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.

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.


Shanny Peer has been Director of the Columbia Maison Française since 2009. She earned a Ph.D. from New York University’s Institute of French Studies in 1992 and taught French Studies for ten years, at the University of Vermont and then NYU, where she was the only non-tenured faculty member to receive a Golden Dozen Award for teaching excellence in 1997. She was then Director of Policy Programs at the French-American Foundation for 8 years and worked briefly at Families and Work Institute on work-family policies before joining Columbia University.

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.