“I am a wave in the river of darkness and light,” wrote the Han dynasty poet Zhang Heng in The Bones of Zhuangzi. Two short films made at different ends of the island of Britain allow for meditation on rivers and the human condition. Both are serious, even sombre, and, in different ways, contain glimpses of light as well as dark. Rivers allow us to be in a different relation to time.
Deep River Dark Stream by Hanien Conradi in collaboration with Margaret LeJeune accompanies a water dance in the river Dart in Devon with a text by Eugène Marais, the ‘father of ethology.’ Conradi talks about the film in an interview with Climate Cultures.
Upstream, a ‘dream-voyage to the source of the River Dee on the Cairngorm plateau,’ was filmed by Rob Petit in northern Scotland over the course of three years. No people appear in the film, which was shot entirely from the air with drones, but a prose poem by Robert Macfarlane accompanies the flight into a harsh, alien interior. Macfarlane concludes:
Here is where the heart falls.
Here is where the heart fails.
Here is where the heart fills.
Upstream is available in the UK on BBC iPlayer until 28 October 2019
Image: detail of Zhuangzi Dreaming of a Butterfly by Lu Zhi (1496-1576). Public domain