Friday, February 9, 2024


Screen Australia

Australian Chamber Orchestra

Richard Tognetti, musical director and composer

William Barton, composer, vocals and didgeridoo


Reviewed by Len Power


Filled to the rafters, the Canberra Theatre’s audience for River experienced an extraordinary concert of live music and film.

The film, written and directed by Jennifer Peedom, is a cinematic exploration of the way rivers have shaped our world. For millions of years, rivers have passed through our landscapes and sustained communities. Within a couple of centuries, the ability to reshape rivers to suit our perceived needs has brought changes downstream that have proved to be catastrophic.

The breathtaking principal photography in the film by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, Ben Knight, Sherpas Cinema, Renan Ozturk and Pete McBride has been fashioned by film editor, Simon Njoo, into a remarkable visual exploration of rivers around the world and the impact of man on them.

Richard Tognetti and William Barton with the Australian Chamber Orchestra

On the film, the distinctive voice of actor, William Dafoe, accompanied the journey with a commentary that was informative, warm and poetic.

The music score features a large number of works by a range of classical composers including Bach, Vivaldi, Ravel, Sibelius and Mahler as well as works by the contemporary composers Piers Burbrook De Vere, Jonny Greenwood and Radiohead.

There was also new, original music by Richard Tognetti and William Barton.  Barton also performed on didgeridoo and provided vocals and Satu Vänskä provided vocals as well as performing on violin.

The powerful combination of music and film produced a haunting, dream-like atmosphere. While a mesmerising experience, the film’s message was very clear. Showing the fragile beauty of untouched waterways as well as the damage that humans have inflicted in recent years, the film pleads for a major re-think in how we live with rivers the world over.


Photo by Nic Walker


This review was first published by Canberra CityNews digital edition on 8 February 2023.

Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at