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The Main Stream cover photo

The Main Stream 2003

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Filmakers Library, 124 East 40th Street, New York, NY 10016; 202-808-4980
Producer n/a
Directed by Roger Weisberg
VHS, color, 88 min.

Sr. High - Adult
American Studies, Environmental Studies, Humor, Sociology, Travel and Tourism

Date Entered: 11/12/2004

Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

In this condensed version of a two-hour documentary that originally aired on PBS, author and humorist Roy Blount, Jr. goes searching for the heart and soul of a diverse and divided America. Rather than going to Main Street U.S.A., Blount follows the 2,552-mile Mississippi River from its headwaters in Minnesota to New Orleans in the hopes that he will find an answer to the question of “What holds this country together?”

In his journey down the Mississippi, Blount visits old haunts of Mark Twain, fishes for catfish, rides a steamboat, and attends a rodeo at Angola State Prison in Georgia. Interviews with author Garrison Keillor and Native American activist Winona LaDuke are interspersed with conversations with backwater hippies, Greenpeace environmentalists, musicians and others who have often intensely personal associations with the river. The film effectively tells the story of a powerful natural force that has always held different meanings for the people who have lived and worked alongside it. Starting out fresh and small, the river, like mainstream America, quickly becomes a wider, muddier puree that is commercialized and industrialized before finally becoming something else as it flows into the Gulf of Mexico.

Entertaining and informative, witty and thoughtful, the production by this award-winning director is of the highest technical quality. The research, writing, cinematography and editing are faultless. Highly recommended.