Australia’s Stranger Than Fiction Films and the U.K.’s Arrow Pictures have teamed for theatrical documentary “River,” commissioned by BBC Arts and ABC Arts.
Exploring the relationship between humans and rivers, the documentary spans six continents. It is directed by Jennifer Peedom, co-directed by Joseph Nizeti and produced by Jo-anne McGowan and Peedom from Stranger than Fiction and John Smithson from Arrow.
Peedom’s previous film “Mountain” (2017) is the highest-grossing Australian documentary in box office history, and completed an 11-week run in U.K. and U.S. cinemas. An earlier collaboration, “Sherpa” (2015), was BAFTA-nominated and won best documentary at the London Film Festival. It also won at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards, Australian Film Critics Association Awards and Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards, among numerous other accolades.
“Mountain” was written by Robert Macfarlane with music by artistic director Richard Tognetti and the Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO). All are back for “River,” which also features music from Jonny Greenwood and Radiohead.
The project is co-produced with international distributor Dogwoof and Australia/New Zealand distributor Madman Entertainment, with production investment from Screen Australia and the ACO. Dogwoof is handling world sales and will represent the film at the upcoming European Film Market.
“As ‘Mountain’ drew its audience up to the highest world’s most formidable summits, so ‘River’ will draw its audiences in to explore the arteries of the planet,” said Peedom. “This is not a traditional theatrical documentary. The phenomenal global success of ‘Mountain’ shows that audiences worldwide have a huge appetite for a different kind of experience. Its union of image, music and sparse, poetic script will ensure that ‘River’ is both dream-like and powerful.”
Tognetti said: “Through the power of film and music, ‘River’ brings a heightened awareness to the vulnerability and beauty of our world’s arteries and awakens a new and unique reverence and respect for their intrinsic value.”
“Rivers have shaped all our landscapes and our journeys. We dam rivers for power, plunder them for wealth — and we turn to them for solace and sacredness,” said Jo-anne McGowan, producer and co-founder of Stranger Than Fiction. “Our ability to shape planetary processes is now of such power and consequence that it will leave a legacy for millions of years to come. So, the story of ‘River’ is at once ancient and urgent, as the human race continues to make its mark.”
John Smithson, producer and creative director for Arrow Pictures, added: “This film is an exciting hybrid, with brilliant images, powerful music and elegant words which combine to say something profound about the human race’s impact on the planet. It’s a stimulating creative challenge and it’s great to be collaborating again with one of Australia’s top directors.”
“River” was commissioned by Miranda Culley for Australian broadcaster ABC, executive producer for ABC Arts is Kalita Corrigan. The commissioning editor at BBC Arts is Mark Bell.
(Pictured, L-R: Jennifer Peedom, John Smithson, “River,” Jo-anne McGowan, Richard Tognetti)