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River of Grass

Directed by Kelly Reichardt with Lisa Bowman, Larry Fessenden, Dick Russell


1993, U.S. 85 minutes In anticipation of the release of Kelly Reichardt’s new film, Meek’s Cutoff, ArtsEmerson looks back to the director’s early work, presenting her debut feature, River of Grass, “a quick-witted film whose appeal is as much a matter of tone and style as story” (Geoffrey Gilmore, Sundance Film Festival). Set in Broward County, Florida (Reichardt grew up in Miami; River of Grass is the Indian name for the Everglades), the film was conceived by wondering “how the lone-rebel, a fixture in every road movie, could exist in the ‘90s when even the Burger King slogan tells you to ‘Break the Rules’” (Reichardt).

“An amazing first film full of sardonic humor and sprite self-possession… Kelly’s besieged, aimless characters give new meaning to the word anti-hero. And Kelly herself, battling tooth and nail to get her film made, did so without any of the benefits usually afforded first-time directors, i.e. a film school background, a calling-card short, some connection to money, or a penis. I don’t think many male directors care to acknowledge the advantages their gender affords them, even at rock bottom. So today, at the lowest fringes of independent filmmaking, without even the trickling-up effect of a once active experimental cinema, the creation and ultimate distribution of a film like River of Grass is a miraculous event. This is why Kelly’s perseverance and courage should be saluted alongside the singularity and intelligence of her film.” –Todd Haynes, BOMB Magazine

When a thirty-year-old mother of three kids sneaks out one night to a local bar she meets her destiny in the form of an aimless and enigmatic young drifter, sparking a “low-key… captivating escapade that provokes amusement and incredulity as [the] bungling Bonnie and Clyde live the life of outlaws who can’t seem to get it right. Shot on a minuscule budget, with a stark atmosphere, this is original, controlled filmmaking by creative independents who clearly understand the B-movie legacy they’re tapping into” (Gilmore).

Followed by:
Ode (With Kevin Poole, Heather Gottlieb, Digibeta from super-8, color, 50 minutes)
1999, U.S. A super-8 reinterpretation of the Herman Raucher novel Ode to Billy Joe, featuring an original soundtrack by Will Oldham. “Lyrically naturalistic, Ode brings the legendary love story of Billy Joe McAllister and Bobbie Lee Hartley to the slippery slope of 1990s morality” (Steve Seid, Pacific Film Archive).

In advance of its theatrical release, see a sneak peek of Meek's Cutoff on Monday, May 2 at the Harvard Film Archive.

For more Will Oldham visit the Coolidge Corner Theatre, where Oldham will be appearing on April 26th to read Rudolph Wurlitzer's Slow Fade.


River of Grass

River of Grass

April 30 @ 8:30pm
May 1 @ 6pm

Bright Family Screening Room



$10. $7.50 for Members. $5 for Students.



Running Time:

Total Run Time for Program: 85 minutes


Color, 16mm



The wondrous "sensory gardens" of Farfalle (Butterflies) bring together theatre, contemporary art and technology - at the centerpiece is a special sensor-covered CCC (or “Children Cheering Carpet”) which interacts with dancers and audience in real time.

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