Filmmaker Scott Morris’ new feature-length documentary “American River” chronicles both the beauty and heavy burdens carried by the Passaic River in northern New Jersey, but the film’s scope and impact is much wider.​

“A goal of this project was to portray positive aspects of the river despite the environmental hurdles it faces and show those elements in a cinematic experience,” Morris said. “You realize as you watch it that this isn’t a film about some localized river, but really a story about all rivers.”

The “American River” documentary will be the centerpiece of the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association’s Clean Water Celebration scheduled Oct. 15 at the Campus Theatre in Lewisburg as well as the adjacent Hufnagle Park.

This celebration has family-friendly free morning activities and a modest ticket fee for the afternoon events.

The event was developed as a way to mark and reflect on the 50th anniversary of the national Clean Water Act. It will feature a variety of family focused presentations, activities and music in Hufnagle Park from 10 a.m. to noon (free to the public)

​At 12:45 p.m., Morris and Riverkeeper John Zaktansky will introduce “American River” at the Campus Theatre, which will begin playing at 1 p.m. and will be followed, at approximately 2:30 p.m., by a panel discussion and Q&A session about the film and parallels with issues we are dealing with along the Susquehanna River. The panel will feature Morris along with local educators and other experts. Cost to participate in the afternoon activities is $10 a person.

“The Clean Water Act of 1972 has been the benchmark for all water quality efforts in the five decades since its inception, and we feel the Clean Water Celebration will be a great way to reflect on that history while looking ahead to what is next,” said Zaktansky. “I am excited to enjoy the ‘American River’ documentary with people from our watershed and then discuss ways we can all do a better job in protecting our river resources within and along the Susquehanna River.”

Morris leaned on his 40 years of filmmaking experience to pull together the film, utilizing more than ten cameras via camera boats, drones, GoPros and even cameras on the shore. The film follows two main characters (including environmental author Mary Bruno, whose book “An American River: From Paradise to Superfund, Afloat on New Jersey’s Passaic” is the inspiration of the film) along a four-day, 80-mile kayak trip down the Passaic River.

“There is a constant dialogue going on with our main characters about their observations, and we also interviewed 20 to 25 people along the way from all walks of life which offers this rich mosaic of what life is like along a river,” said Morris, adding that his goal was to take people along on this journey in an experiential way, not necessarily to “hit people over the head” with an environmental message, but to help people fall in love with the river.

Filmmaker Scott Morris shared the story of his documentary, “American River,” in the most recent episode of the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Podcast, available at the organization’s website to listen to.

Tickets are required for the screening of the documentary “American River” at the Campus Theatre as well as the panel discussion afterward. Cost is $10 per ticket, with proceeds helping the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association improve water quality throughout the greater watershed.

Tickets to the movie and discussion can be purchased at www.MiddleSusquehannaRiverkeeper.org

“American River,” is a feature-length documentary about water quality and the interconnectedness found along a river system, as well as the panel discussion afterward about the film and issues we are facing along the Susquehanna River. The film introduction begins at 12:45 p.m at the Campus Theatre in Lewisburg. Panel discussion will start right after the film, at approximately 2:30 p.m.

“As people watch this documentary, they are telling us they are inspired to learn more about their own hometown river,” Morris said. “There isn’t this feeling that there’s too many environmental problems, or there’s no hope, but more of looking at things in a new way and wanting to get involved and do something about improving our rivers.”

The Clean Water Celebration’s earlier segment in Hufnagle Park, will feature a presentation by Brian Auman, who helped design the landscaping along Bull Run in Lewisburg via a recent project that restores the flood plain while giving better access to the waterway in an effort to elicit more natural play experiences and spark a better appreciation of the waterway.

Live music and interactive environmental education opportunities will be included in the 10 a.m. to noon programming, all of which will be offered for free. The “American River” documentary and panel discussion at the Campus Theatre (starting at 12:45 p.m.) will cost $10 per ticket.



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