Where The Rivers Flows North (1993) is the feature film debut of Vermont filmmaker, Jay Craven. Jay Craven has directed seven feature films since then, four being based off the works of author, Howard Frank Mosher, including Where The River Flows North. Where The River Flows North is still probably the best of these adaptations. It’s a strong tale of the American “pioneer spirit”. A man and his Indian partner are trying to survive living off the land in Northern Vermont, despite odds being stacked against them. It features some very good performances and it’s just a beautiful tale of a time long gone.
There’s so much that works about Where The Rivers Flows North, but I’d like to compliment the performances first. For a low-budget first film, Craven was able to assemble some recognizable actors to play some of the major roles. In the lead role, we have Rip Torn as Noel Lord a logger. Noel is a stuck-up, stubborn, old-fashioned man who refuses to change with the times. He represents the “good ol’ days”. Torn’s performance is very powerful, but sad, at the same time. We’re watching as Lord literally loses his mind. Tantoo Cardinal is also quite good, if not a bit obnoxious due to a somewhat stereotypical Native American portrayal as Bangor, his mate. As a native Vermonter, Lord refuses to give up on his land lease, and is more socially conscious than most of what’s going on with power company’s plans to build a dam. Michael J. Fox, in a silly mustache, looking a bit out of his element, plays the power company executive behind the land development plan. Additionally, there’s Treat Williams as The Champ’s boxing manager and The Champ (the boxer) is played by Vermonter Rusty DeWees).
Craven has done a great job bringing the setting of 1927 in Vermont to life. Everything feels very “old-fashioned” with the use of film locations, camera angles, and log-cabins. Though the film definitely feels low-budget, the cinematography is wonderful with several beautiful shots of the New England autumn countryside. Music by the Horse Flies, Jeff Claus, and others also helped with the mood and country feeling.
Jay Craven, a well known Vermont filmmaker, has made six features since Where The Rivers Flows North, a beautiful solid story about Vermont, the human spirit, and the will to survive. It’s a very solid feature film, and I hope people enjoy watching it again or for the first time.
Special 25th Anniversary film screening Friday, December 1st, at the Briggs Opera House, White River JCT. at 7:30 PM. There’s also a Benefit Reception at Trailbreak Taps and Tacos, also in WRJ, at 6:00 PM. For more information, please visit: http://www.wrif.org/event/where-the-rivers-flow-north/