Pack some popcorn in your paddlecraft. Raven Fork, the newest full-length whitewater film to hit the silver screen since The River Wild, will have its world premiere in Athens, Ga., Oct. 2, at the Dixie Film Festival. PL caught up with producer Tom Oliver for his take a film that explores everything from friendship to death on the river…
“My plan is to take this film on tour, providing free screenings for the paddlesports community,” says Oliver. “I’m reaching out to everyone in the paddlesports community so as many people can see it as possible.”
The storyline of Thomas Oliver’s new film, Raven Fork, the Movie, chronicles kayakers Dave (Glenn LaPlante) and Blake (Frank Jordan) as happy-go-lucky boaters before taking on the Class V Raven Fork in the heart of the Appalachian wilderness. There, a “tragic accident followed by a self-destructive tailspin explores the emotion of life, search for closure and momentum of the human spirit to prevail.”
Okay, so it sounds like a B-roll Hollywood plot. But behind this feature-length whitewater movie that belongs in your library is subject matter piercingly close to every kayaker’s heart: death on the river. “It opens up a dialogue that hasn’t always been out there,” says Oliver. “It’s the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about.”
A big one at that. While the film is fiction, neither Oliver nor his actors, all ardent Southeast kayakers, are strangers to such tragedy; they’ve all had friends who have died on the river. “Even the person who taught me how to paddle, Mike Barker, died on the river,” says Oliver, adding that a movie character bears his name.
Which brings up the issue at hand: is dramatizing death on the river a good or bad thing for our sport?
Like it or not, stick in this sport long enough and the Grim Reaper will rear its head, holding a paddle instead of a scythe. And some years are worse than others. And unfortunately, it often takes the dramatization of death for whitewater to make it in Hollywood. It happened in Deliverance, The River Wild and Alan Alda’s White Mile, and is also the case in Oliver’s Raven Fork. But at least this current carnation has the benefit of a kayaker stepping up to portray it.
“The sport’s danger appeals to a lot of people — especially the younger paddlers who are all-consumed with it,” admits Oliver, who, to help spread his message, plans to screen his film for free throughout the country. “But as you mature, you discover that the danger of it is very real. I never realized how cathartic it would be dramatizing it in this film.”