By Phil Hall | November 17, 2009

Carlos Bolado’s engaging documentary, which won the Best Documentary Award at the 2008 American Indian Film Festival and played on PBS stations, adapts Stephen Most’s acclaimed book on the crisis involving the balance of ecology and commerce in the Klamath Basin region.

In 2001, the federal Bureau of Reclamation cut off Klamath-based irrigation water to farmers and ranchers due to concerns of threats to the survival of fish species. When the farmers and ranchers staged a demonstration by illegally carrying buckets of water from the basin to the irrigation canal, the Bush White House worked around the tenets of the Endangered Species Act in order to accommodate this sector.

However, the warning on the damage to the ecosystem came true – in September 2002, 80,000 spawning salmon died in the estuary. The film details how the American Indian tribes of the region took the initiative to hammer out a consensus with farmers and commercial and sports fishing groups that enabled the balance that ensured a profitable economy could thrive without damaging the ecological structure of the basin. This was no mean feat, considering that federal sanctions traditionally targeted Indian fishing rights, even though the tribal presence along the waterways was fractional compared to the commercial fleets that served the canneries of the region.

The film also shows how local tribal members aggressively and successfully coerced Warren Buffett’s Pacificorp to sign an agreement in principle to remove four hydroelectric dams that were blamed for wrecking the local commercial salmon fishing industry.

The film scores on multiple levels: as a study of economics, environmental science, contemporary American Indian issues and the connection of local concerns with national socio-political operations. “River of Renewal” represents everything that is wonderful about the non-fiction film genre.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join our Film Threat Newsletter

Newsletter Icon