‘Big River Man’ makes splash on big screen
January 21, 2009
For those who survived Sundance’s first weekend and the traditional chaos that always come with, now might be the time to head to the theaters.
With screenings through the weekend, movie seekers can make their mark on this year’s festival. Some of this year’s sports-themed films offer stories of inspiration or intrigue; going on others are just plain odd, but all are entertaining.
"Big River Man," a world cinema documentary film, takes viewers on the swim of a lifetime. Endurance swimmer Martin Strel is a Slovenian who has conquered most of the world’s greatest rivers — the Mississippi, the Danube and the Yangtze — thus far. Strel has chosen the Amazon as his final conquest intent on bringing attention to protecting the rainforest to give credence to his journey.
But make no mistake, Strel is no Michael Phelps. He’s 50, he’s overweight not the guy you want to see in a wetsuit, but he is bent of taking the best rivers of the world, bringing a message of environmentalism along with him. Fortified with a solid two bottles of wine a day and an iron mindset, Strel has swum his way into the books as the "greatest endurance swimmer in history."
In his past travels, Strel has encountered all sorts of evils of the world, from pollution to rough waters and some rather unfriendly underwater creatures. In this film, Strel has many more adventures. He meets many native peoples, takes in the beauty of the rainforest and endures many tough situations. From preexisting health issues to stomach problems to eventual delirium, Strel’s journey is always an exciting one.
Strel’s son is in the film as a narrator, offers insight into the man behind the amazing feat and shows the struggles he has keeping his father together.
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"Big River Man" was directed by John Maringouin, but it was his wife, Molly Lynch, who had the initial vision. Lynch became pregnant midway through the project and couldn’t travel to the Amazon with an infant, but still had her hand in all parts of the film.
Maringouin said he was inspired by Strel’s dedication, but it wasn’t until Sundance that he realized his true love of the earth.
"I was moved by what he was saying about the rainforest," Maringouin said.
"Big River Man" was created to be more than just a sports film or an environmental film but to capture the emotional enormity of Strel’s accomplishments.
"I’m not looking for a message," Maringouin said. "It’s interwoven into what he goes through."
Strel finishes the swim worn out and delirious from the enormity of the task and quickly fades into the background, never getting much attention for his accomplishments.
Strel came to Park City this week to attend the screening of the film. After one showing he spoke if his love of sport and the environment.
"This is prize not just for me," he said in a thick Slovenian accent. "It’s for people who love sport and love the nature. We need this interest. We need the rainforest. I hope I change this world just a little bit."
According to Maringouin, coming to Sundance was Strel’s chance at finally being recognized.
"He suffers from an unjustified lack of recognition," Maringouin said. "Being at Sundance was huge."
Strel was met with enthusiasm and a standing ovation after the film.
"I was practically in tears," Maringouin said. "I was really moved."
"Big River Man" Screenings: Thursday, Jan. 22, 5:30 p.m. – Prospector Square Theatre, Park City
"Tyson" takes a hard look at one of the most interesting and maligned athletes of modern times. The movies chronicles Mike Tyson’s life from his struggles as a youth, his relationship with his boxing instructor and mentor Constantine "Cus" D’Amato, his meteoric rise to fame and the hard fall he took almost immediately after the ear-biting incident and his well-publicized problems with domestic violence.
"Tyson" Screenings: Saturday, Jan. 24, 6:15 p.m. — Holiday Village Cinema IV, Park City
Not so much a sports film as a bloody thriller, "Dead Snow" is a Norwegian film that will keep viewers at the edge of their seats. A group of medical students head out for a ski vacation but after some initial merriment come across a rather shady hiker. He tells them that they are on a former World War II battle site. The medical students end up waking the spirits of the soldiers and a gory zombie battle ensues. For those looking for the edgy, different and odd "Dead Snow" fits the bill.
"Dead Snow" Screenings: Wednesday, Jan 21, 9:30 p.m. — Redstone Cinemas, Kimball Junction Friday, Jan 23, 11:59 p.m. — Egyptian Theatre, Park City Saturday, Jan 24, 10:30 p.m. — Broadway Centre Cinemas IV, SLC
Others sports films:
"Toe to Toe" Screenings: Wednesday, Jan. 21, 5:30 p.m. — Prospector Square Theatre, Park City Friday, Jan. 23, 11:30 p.m. — Library Center Theatre, Park City
"Against the Current" Screenings: Wed. Jan. 21, 11:15 a.m. — Racquet Club, Park City Thu. Jan. 22, 2:15 p.m. — Racquet Club, Park City Sat. Jan. 24, 6:45 p.m. — Broadway Centre Cinemas V, SLC
"Big Fan" Screenings: Thursday, Jan. 22, 3:15 p.m. — Eccles Theatre, Park City Friday, Jan. 23, 8:30 a.m. — Racquet Club, Park City
"Rudo y Cursi" Screenings: Friday, Jan. 23, 6:30 p.m. — Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, SLC
"The Winning Season" Screenings: Wednesday, Jan. 21, 9:15 a.m. — Eccles Theatre, Park City Sunday, Jan. 25, 3:30 p.m. — Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, SLC
"Thriller in Manila" Screenings: Wednesday, Jan. 21, 11:59 p.m. — Holiday Village Cinema IV, Park City