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April 5, 2010

First Review: “‘The River Why’ is lovely, under-stated filmmaking”

April 5, 2010–The Easter Bunny delivered some “egg-cellent” news yesterday!  Our first write up by the Ashland Mail Tribune.

Journalist Bill Varble wrote:

It’s heartening to see the overall quality of the work being done by independent filmmakers around the world. That quality will be on display in our little corner of the world, as the annual Ashland Independent Film Festival gets under way Thursday.

The big little indie fest this year again boasts some extraordinary films among its 81 entries. And almost everything is at least worth seeing. Contrast this with a typical week’s crop of Hollywood commercial fare, which often leaves you scratching for a movie worth seeing.

Here are some thumbnail reflections…

“The River Why,” feature, 101 minutes

Producer Kristi Denton Cohen waited 20 years to make a beautiful film based on David James Duncan’s iconic coming-of-age fishing novel set in Oregon, and the wait was worth it. Gus Orviston, 20, leaves his fishing, bickering parents’ home to live in a cabin on the river and order his life so that he can fish 141/2 hours a day.

Gotta be bliss, right? Wrong. He’s soon frustrated and lost. But the right guides turn up at just the right moments as Gus moves toward awareness.

This is lovely, understated filmmaking. Director Matthew Leutwyler wisely lets his camera and his actors, including the eye-popping Wilson River near Portland, (this is one of those stories in which the environment is a character) tell the story. When it looks this easy, you know it was hard work indeed.

Although the cinematography is stunning, the producer says it’s still a work in progress, and she allowed it to be shown as a thank-you to Oregon. The final version will reportedly be yet more beautiful.

To read the rest of Varble’s reviews, please click here.

Also appearing at the Ashland Independent Film Festival is “Greenlit”, the behind-the-scenes documentary of The River Why‘s attempt to “green” the film production. The 12:00 noon April 10th showing of “Greenlit” will be followed by a panel discussion including “Greenlit” director Bailey and “River Why” green consultant Lauren Selman. Bill Vabler suggests “The ideal would be to see ‘[The] River Why,’ then see ‘Greenlit,’ then stay for the discussion.” We agree, Bill!

You can catch The River Why at 12:00noon on April 9th and 6:00pm April 10th. Get your tickets here.

The Ashland Independent Film Festival runs Thursday, April 8, through Monday, April 12, at the Varsity Theatre and other Ashland locations with 81 films, plus parties, awards and special events. Most showings are $10. See www.ashlandfilm.org for more information.

UPDATE: While you’re at the AIFF, here are a few other events you may enjoy:

  • “Reel Women” Panel with Producer Kristi Denton Cohen: 10:30am, April 10, 2010.
  • “It Ain’t Easy Being Green” Panel, following the screening of “Greenlit“, which documents The River Why’s attempt to “green” its film production: Screening starts at 12:00noon, April 10, 2010

Both events listed here: http://www.ashlandfilm.org/FilmBlocks.asp?Date=4/10/2010&clicktime=23:14:29

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