Planet in Focus Environment Film Festival 2012
Lost Rivers (2012)
Directed by Caroline Bâcle
This year’s opening night of the Planet in Focus Environmental Film Festival kicked off with the world premiere of Caroline Bâcle’s Lost Rivers. The documentary aims to inform us of the rivers under major cities around the world, and the efforts from a dedicated few to save them.
Once flowing through nearly every developed city in the world, rivers provided the infrastructure upon which most modern metropolises were built. Lost Rivers leads us down the drain into vast underground museums of urban development that have sprung up surrounding the protection and unearthing of these flowing rivers. The films takes us through the hidden river networks of London, Brescia (Italy), Montreal and Toronto where intrepid groups of subterranean explorers known as “drainers” reveal the buried waterways that house the secrets of each city’s past. The film also explores some of the recent government funded initiatives to resurface and revitalize these forgotten waterways in Yonkers and Seoul, and the more grassroots efforts in places like Toronto. The film is strung together with a narrative from the director and manages to maintain an unobtrusive distance from the subject for most of the film.
While the stunning cinematic shots that do come out of certain areas of the film are breathtaking, the film’s main focus is to get down and dirty and into the muck of these tunnels. Now filled with sewage and other assorted trash, the rivers still run freely below the city, but when heavy rain hits they flood over very quickly, and in some places like Toronto, overtake the walls of the sides of the tunnels and force raw sewage directly into the sea without hitting the treatment plants first. In other places of the world, the “Drainers” are treated as historians and well regarded for their works. In Brescia they search for evidence of the lost world beneath the streets. Yet in Montreal they are openly breaking the law.
The film manages to convey its message with little overall fanfare as there is not a lot of cinematic license in the production. The film relies on its magnitude of information and the likeability of the subjects to keep the film moving along. Sadly this is not enough to drive the film home completely and leads to some “dry areas” of the film where interest may wain. That said, I still found myself fascinated more than not. The project in Yonkers may be the most successful part of the film as it features engaging subjects and the project was a massive success. While seeing this story play out you quickly realize that this has become the heart of the film.
Not under water, but those waders sure are getting a bit wet, Lost Rivers is hurt by its simplicity and its reliance on interviews with the traditional talking heads motif, but really does very well for itself when it goes underground. While the film may not be the most fascinating on the whole, the situation is and the information here is top notch. Lost Rivers gets a mild recommend.
Till Next Time,
Movie Junkie TO
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