Thursday, 18 October 2012

Lost Rivers Review: Where do we find our Lost Rivers? - Documentary Reviews, Documentaries, Documentary, Movie Reviews, Movies, Film, Film Reviews, Environmentalism, Entertainment, Film Entertainment

Documentaries are not something that I tend to go for traditionally, and it’s not from lack of interest. I make a point to be informed about the world and the way people live. This is far from a perfect world and there are a lot of issues to deal with. When I want to do that I go for the news and talk/debate shows which analyze the details and give them context. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t depending on who is doing the analyzing but even from people I don’t agree with I tend to learn something. But the fact that I stay informed doesn’t necessarily mean I need to know everything about everything. In some cases I am just looking for entertainment, and that’s often the case when I go to a film.

So a documentary usually has to have something really special with it to make get me in a theater. On occasion though I get tired of the traditional way of getting information and I look for something new. When I got the chance to go to the Planet in Focus film festival recently, I got just such an opportunity. The first of such films that I got to see is called Lost Rivers. A film about the way we view water in our modern age and how that relationship is changing in recent years. Enter a group known as The Drainers, more a collection groups with a similar name that have sprung up to explore the nature of water in urban areas and how we can help solve some of the problems we have with it. They do it by exploring rivers that have disappeared from view in most major cities because the population around it has changed.

And this is where the film kind of loses me a bit. It’s true that this is an important issue and people should know about it but doing that requires a certain amount of heart string pulling that seems somewhat lacking in the film. Narrative films and documentaries are different beasts to be sure. One is the invention of emotional and physical stakes and the other is a portrayal of a real world situation. But if you look at the best of both you see some basic similarities. Usually there’s a specific focus to the film, which in narrative films refers to a main character, and there is almost always an antagonist of some kind with which to contrast the focus of the film.

Somewhat ironically, Lost Rivers is missing that contrast. Of the three major focuses in the film, none of them come up against any serious constraints to their journey. Quite the opposite is the case with one in that they went from outlaws breaking city laws to an officially recognized group before the film even started. Another group being followed seems to avoid conflict in the film because the contrast is never actually seen, just referred to. Now I am not saying that all documentary films necessarily require contrast or conflict in order to move it forward, but as an audience member I just didn’t feel emotionally connected to the characters because things don’t necessarily happen to any of them.

We follow them and learn about them and the issue they have but we don’t really care about them in any serious way. I can think of only one point in which I was really emotionally invested in the film and it was created by two people who were not the focus of the film in a strange detour into random people. To me, that’s a problem whether you’re doing a narrative or documentary film and it’s one that Lost Rivers doesn’t really overcome.

Where do we find our Lost Rivers? They are all around us, we just have to have the courage to go and look.

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