Waternova, a brainchild of Martin Villeneuve (Mars et Avril) and François Schuiten, tragically fell victim to the Covid-19 pandemic. This narrative-rich sci-fi feature film project wanted to offer an immersive journey into expanded consciousness. At its core, it revolved around a group of carefully chosen individuals fleeing a decaying Earth on a nature-powered Ark. The story served as an ecological parable, shedding light on the consequences of unchecked progress and climate change. The characters grappled with intricate dilemmas, mirroring the multifaceted challenges confronting our present society.1)
Images from REVOIR PARIS by François Schuiten & Benoît Peeters, published by Casterman © 2016 – All rights reserved
Belgian comic book master and Production Designer François Schuiten (The Golden Compass, Mr. Nobody, Mars et Avril) teamed up once again with Martin Villeneuve in creating the story, characters and visual world of Waternova. The screenplay was written by Martin Villeneuve (Mars et Avril) and Ray Gower (Dark Corners), under the supervision of James V. Hart (Hook, Dracula, Contact, and the newly-released series The Hot Zone).
Villeneuve was set to direct, while Pierre Even from Item 7 (C.R.A.Z.Y., War Witch, Brooklyn, The Hummingbird Project) and the late Claude Léger (Upside Down, Erased, Brick Mansions, Enter the Warriors Gate) from Transfilm International were involved as producers.2)
In September 2018, Martin Villeneuve and Sylvain Despretz collaborated with François Schuiten on the storyboard at Schuiten's summer residence in Southern France. The ambitious vision for Waternova had slated filming in Tibet and China's Yunnan province for 2020. However, the unforeseen double blows of the Covid-19 pandemic and Claude Léger's tragic passing abruptly derailed these plans, ultimately leading to the project's abandonment. Consequently, Martin Villeneuve instead shifted his focus on his second feature film, The 12 Tasks of Imelda, which he completed in 2022, and on his animated series Red Ketchup, released in 2023.3)
François Schuiten sketching some ideas for Waternova
A Word from the Director
The summer of 2018 has seen extreme weather conditions shatter records and long-standing climate patterns the world over: Sweltering heat waves, violent thunderstorms, massive hurricanes, typhoons, flash-floods – the tragic and deadly list proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that Earth’s climate is radically changing. Yet many countries, including the world’s leading economy, the U.S. (under its current president), are still arguing that climate change is a “fiction invented by extremists”. Recently, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres sounded an even more-pressing alarm – warning that climate change is worsening faster than our efforts to combat it. “If we don’t change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain us,” Guterres warned. “We are careening towards the edge of the abyss.”
From left to right: Writer-Director Martin Villeneuve & Producer Claude Léger in Montreal / Screenwriters Ray Gower & Martin Villeneuve in London © 2018 – All rights reserved
These chaotic and game-changing events set the backdrop for Waternova, a darkly-imaginative allegory about environmental concerns, echoing themes reported on the nightly news. The idea of building an Ark to save humankind from pending apocalypse dates back to biblical times. The core difference this time around is that in today’s world, the Ark isn’t needed in response to the wrath of some outside, vengeful god – but to flee from a catastrophe entirely of our own making, created and nurtured after centuries of blindly worshipping at the altar of our self-made deity, blind progress. In a quest to reach some distant, habitable exoplanet, the men and women onboard the ship must confront their own worst demons in search of finding a better balance and, towards the end, a solution to save the Earth. This film, ultimately, will be about finding our better angels, about renewal, about hope.
From left to right: Production Designer François Schuiten, Writer-Director Martin Villeneuve & Storyboard Artist Sylvain Despretz in Southern France © 2018 – All rights reserved
Supported by a passionate and experienced creative team, as director, it is my goal to deliver a gripping, fascinating and enlightening story. Our world must change, and drastically, if we are to survive. It must become – and us with it – a better place. And that transformation all starts with a dream. One movie obviously cannot change the world – yet I have always deeply believed in the power of cinema to raise awareness, and take that crucial key step to nourish our collective dreams and ambitions. That’s the fundamental reason why I want to make Waternova.
From left to right: Script Editor James V. Hart, Writer-Director Martin Villeneuve & Producer Pierre Even in New York © 2019 – All rights reserved