SANTA FE, N.M. — Paul Lazarus has more than 30 years in film and television.
It’s a career he enjoys.
But his latest documentary is one that he wants people to think about.
“I got involved in this project on a whim,” he says. “It was supposed to take over a year and that was seven or eight years ago.”
Lazarus’ project, “Slingshot,” begins a short run at the Center for Contemporary Arts in Santa Fe on Friday, Aug. 7. During the first weekend, Lazarus will be on site to conduct a Q&A after the evening screenings.
“Slingshot” focuses on noted Segway inventor Dean Kamen, his fascinating life, and his 15-year quest to solve the world’s water crisit.
His inventions, mostly medical devices, help people in need and ease suffering.
Best known for his Segway Human Transporter, Kamen has reconceived kidney dialysis, engineered an electric wheelchair that can travel up stairs (the iBot), improve the heart stent, built portable insulin pumps and founded the first robotics competition to inspire young students.
Holder of more than 440 U.S. and foreign patents, he devotes himself to dreaming up products that improve people’s lives.
For many years, he has relentlessly pursued an effective way to clean up the world’s water supply.
Fifty percent of all human illness is the result of water borne pathogens, Kamen has invented a small, energy efficient vapor compression distiller that can turn any unfit source of water (river sludge, seawater, poisoned well water or even a 50-gallon tank of urine, into potable water.
Kamen has nicknamed his device the SlingShot — a tiny technological solution that can take down a giant problem.
But despite the brilliance of his invention, getting these machines into villages around the world has been a long and frustrating journey.
Lazarus traveled with Kamen to Ghana, where one of the devices was implemented.
“In Ghana, it was one of the most moving experiences in my life,” he says. “I got to know the children of the schools and to see them get clean running water for the first time in their lives. It’s a life changer. I couldn’t believe how little they have and how important just being able to turn a tap and get clean water. We take water for granted here.”
Lazarus says all the children are wonderful and excited about being part of the project.
“One child said it (the water) tastes like Coke because it tastes so sweet,” he says. “That’s the degree of which this was impacting on this young children.”
Along with shooting in Ghana, crews shot in New Hampshire, Atlanta and Detroit.
There was also footage taken in Paraguay and two other countries.
Lazarus says the goal for the film is to inspire people about science and technology.
“Anybody who encounters Dean is going to be inspired,” he says.
Another goal is he wanted viewers to have their attitudes about water changed after seeing the film.
“The film is firing on all cylinders,” he says.
After its theatrical run, the film will be available this fall on Netflix, where it will be narrated into 15 foreign languages.
“Expanding to a bigger audience is important,” he says. “I’ve always been drawn to good scripts. This documentary serves such a great purpose.”