Planet in Focus 2013: A River Changes Course Review

A River Changes Course

A River Changes Course

The minimalist documentary A River Changes Course quietly tackles globalization, deforestation, and over-fishing.  Director Kalyanee Mam discreetly films three separate families struggling to assimilate past and present in Cambodia today. They barely survive in villages located in a remote (but dead) jungle in Northern Cambodia, on the Tonie Sap River and outside Phnom Penh. Locals fish, grow crops and harvest rice, but in the end they all resort to sending their young teenage children off to factories and large government controlled plantations so that debts can be paid and mouths can be fed.

The movie works because it doesn’t inundate us with facts, statistics, and information. Instead we see firsthand their daily plight, making the human drama at the heart of the film much more compelling. Without the aid of key graphics, keeping track of all the names does prove challenging, but worth the effort. Adding nicely to the overall simplicity is the use of xylophone music, which is cued only periodically. The director brings a level of intimacy to the families’ struggles, allowing us insight into two teens grudgingly leaving home, both assuming a role of great responsibility for their young ages. The well-timed and intricate editing allows us to discover each family and village routine.

A River Changes Course gently and considerately takes us to a place where people must routinely struggle for little money just to survive amid an infertile, man-made wasteland. (Eric Marchen)

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Screens

Friday, November 22nd, 9:05pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox

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