Factual producers Stranger Than Fiction Films and Arrow Pictures have announced River, a new theatrical documentary project for worldwide release.
The new collaboration between the two companies reunites the team behind the multi-award-winning feature documentary Sherpa and follows in the footsteps of Mountain, the highest-grossing Australian documentary in box office history, which completed an 11-week run in UK and US cinemas.
This major theatrical project, commissioned by ABC Arts and BBC Arts and co-produced with distributors Dogwoof and Madman Entertainment, with major production investment from Screen Australia and the Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO), explores the remarkable relationship between humans and rivers.
A unique cinematic and musical collaboration between the ACO and BAFTA-nominated director Jennifer Peedom, River features specially-composed music by the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s Richard Tognetti and a narration script by Robert Macfarlane, the internationally award-winning author of bestselling books about landscape, nature and place. The score also features music from Jonny Greenwood and Radiohead. The film is directed by Jennifer Peedom, co-directed by Joseph Nizeti and produced by Jo-anne McGowan and Jennifer Peedom from Stranger than Fiction and John Smithson from Arrow Pictures. International distributor Dogwoof will be representing world sales, starting at European Film Market from 1 March.
Spanning six continents, and drawing on extraordinary contemporary cinematography, including satellite filming, the film shows rivers on scales and from perspectives never seen before, and builds on the huge success of Peedom’s previous film, Mountain.
Jennifer Peedom, Producer, Director and Co-Founder, Stranger Than Fiction, says: “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.
“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.”
Richard Tognetti, Artistic Director, Australian Chamber Orchestra, Composer and Musical Director, River, adds “I’m delighted to be working once again with Jennifer Peedom and the team at Stranger Than Fiction Films. 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.”
Jo-anne McGowan, Producer and Co-Founder, Stranger Than Fiction, adds: “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. 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.”
Bernadine Lim, Head of Documentary at Screen Australia, said: “We are proud to fund this documentary from an award-winning team which will take audiences on a breathtaking journey across six continents, exploring and celebrating rivers here in Australia and around the world. I have no doubt River is set to be another landmark cinema experience.”
Kalita Corrigan, Executive Producer for ABC Arts, said: “An exquisite film, River is also a powerful and timely reminder of our responsibility to our ancestors downstream. ABC Arts is proud to bring this cinematic experience into Australian homes.”
Mark Bell, Commissioner for BBC Arts, adds: “Rivers traverse landscape and history, unfolding multiple narratives as they journey from birth to sea. Combining awe-inspiring pictures with stirring music and telling prose – this film is a poetic meditation that provides an urgent message – to cherish and admire these natural wonders. We are thrilled that BBC Arts is able to bring this to the screen.”
River is a collaboration with leading UK factual producer Arrow Pictures. It sees John Smithson, its Creative Director, reunited with Peedom for the first time since multi-award-winning Sherpa. This 2015 film was critically acclaimed on the international festival circuit, including Telluride, Toronto and London Film festivals, winning multiple awards including the Grierson Award for Best Documentary at the BFI London Film Festival, the Australian Film Critics Circle Award, the Australian Directors Guild Award, several audience awards and a BAFTA nomination in 2016.
John Smithson, Producer and Creative Director, Arrow Pictures, adds: “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 is produced by Stranger Than Fiction in association with Arrow Pictures. It has received major production investment from Screen Australia in association with Screen NSW. Directed by Jennifer Peedom and Joseph Nizeti, it is produced by Jo-anne McGowan, Jennifer Peedom and John Smithson. River, a collaboration with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, is a co-production with the Australian broadcaster ABC, the BBC and distributors Dogwoof and Madman Entertainment. The project was commissioned by Miranda Culley for the ABC, Executive Producer for the ABC Arts is Kalita Corrigan. The Commissioning Editor at BBC Arts is Mark Bell. River is distributed internationally by Dogwoof and by Madman Entertainment in Australia and New Zealand.
Photographer – Yann Arthus Bertrand