THE RIVER WHERE WE LIVE (Sylvain L'Espérance, Canada). 92 minutes. Subtitled. Saturday (April 21), 1:15 pm, Isabel Bader; Monday (April 23), 7 pm, ROM. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
A sleek dugout canoe wobbles precariously under the weight of an impossibly tall pile of long grasses as it glides along the Niger River. It's a lasting image in this simple yet exquisite portrait of life along the water plains of Mali, in Africa, where people struggle to find balance in the face of a 30-year drought and encroaching desertification.
A boat builder is teaching his craft to his son. Fishermen, fishmongers, ferrymen and nomadic cattle herders speak earnestly and without embellishment about their daily lives along the delta.
Director Sylvain L'Espérance has a terrific eye for visual storytelling and demonstrates a restraint and a trust in his subjects that less experienced filmmakers might try to brush past. Like the Niger, he allows the film's natural ebb and flow to emerge.