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"Source to Sea: The Columbia River Swim"

by Kristi Pihl
Statesman Journal, September 12, 2011

90 minutes, directed by Andy Norris.

But this film by Norris is more like an environmental/social tract about a disrupted ecosystem and the disrupted lives that came with those changes.

Native Americans have suffered more than most Columbia River peoples, and the film has a Native American narrator and pays special attention to the destruction of the Celilo Falls and the damage to the fish runs that are so important to Native American life.

The 14 dams, which have improved navigation and provide nuclear energy, don't get much defense in this telling, but the film does have its heart on its sleeve.

We also visit Hanford Nuclear Reservation, where the toxic waste of the Cold War years leaches into what is, ironically, the last free-flowing stretch of the river, a popular habitat for wildlife.

The Longview pulp mills, part of one of the major industries still pouring toxic materials into the once-pristine river, also are included.

Swain is an earnest young man who agonizes for the wife and child left behind, then braves the cold water in a wet suit, taking breaks and at one point, taking time off to raise money for his mission by doing odd jobs.

He is a powerful advocate for the ecosystem, talking to young people and other interested audiences.

A joint project of 30 Northwest filmmakers, "Source to Sea" won't please industry or the government bureaucrats, but it will energize people who care about the environment and the changes wrought on a formerly mighty, clean and productive river.

Kristi Pihl
"Source to Sea: The Columbia River Swim"
Statesman Journal, September 12, 2011

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