Movie Review: Lost Rivers

Recently one evening I found myself in the Vancouver Library [1] watching a movie that was hosted by the Vancouver Watershed Council after having eaten an indifferent slice of cheese pizza whose main virtue was that it was free, which is a considerable virtue, it must be admitted. I sat with a large group of people who were all way more politically leftist with regards to environmentalism than myself watching a documentary on various efforts to rediscover and “daylight” rivers that had been blocked in the late 1800’s and afterward [2] in such cities around the world as Montreal, Toronto, London, Yonkers, Seoul, and Brescia. As is often the case with such movies, there was both much to celebrate as well as much to view with considerable suspicion, and such a complicated response to an obviously political film is not necessarily a bad thing, given that the film itself expressed a fair amount of complexity in its celebration of rivers, even in cases, like Seoul, where those rivers lacked complete authenticity and involved ruinously expensive use of power to preserve an illusion of urban rusticity.

This is the sort of film that has an ax to grind, several axes, really. There is the story of Toronto landscape architects who proposed a daylighting of the underground Garrison Creek, only to completely fail to convince the city council to allow the river to poke its head above ground, leading to a bathetic event where human marchers mimicked the imprisoned river. Other scenes included the Brescia Underground, a group of dedicated seekers of underground rivers who managed to make the transition from trespassers to an official historical society providing tours of the Italian hidden streams to tourists and searching in vain for a washing platform. Meanwhile, we see the city of Yonkers mortgage a serious amount of its future in the attempt to free a long-buried river called Saw Mill Creek, only to end up nearly bankrupting local merchants in the process while the circle jerk of self-congratulating leftist bureaucrats carried on in ribbon-cutting ceremonies and efforts at scooping up baby fish in the new downtown riverside park. Then there is a South London community’s successful efforts at creating a no regret habitat zone, only to have this success marred by some bogus fears over climate change.

This is the sort of movie that sends a lot of mixed signals. It demonstrates how many would-be environmentalists often lack the ability to keep projects in reasonable budgets and avoid causing problems for local merchants who are sold a bill of good about how creating some sort of nature park in the city will bring lots of new people and revitalize a downtown and lead to more business, when mostly it seems to create more taxes and photo opportunities for that certain class of creeping bureaucrat that likes to do good things with taxpayer money and take the credit for it themselves in search of higher office or a bigger departmental budget. On the other side of the coin, the film simultaneously glorifies those who break the rules by breaking open manhole covers in order to explore the imprisoned cities of much of the world, and yet the filmmakers appear blind to the fact that their film glorifies both freewheeling lawbreakers and those who incompetently wield civic coercion, yet the dream of urban children enjoying access to God’s creation is dimmed by fears over imaginary man-made climate change. The end result is a muddled film riddled with inconsistency that cannot decide on a straight story concerning the sorts of efforts that are to be celebrated so that city-dwellers can better appreciate some aspects of their hidden local rivers.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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3 Responses to Movie Review: Lost Rivers

  1. Pingback: Movie Review: The Resurrection Of Gavin Stone | Edge Induced Cohesion

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