British filmmakers Jacob Cartwright and Nick Jordan arrived in Southern Illinois in 2007 with birds in mind.
As they worked on “The Audubon Trilogy: Delineations of American Scenery & Manners,” they traveled around the region, filming along the Mississippi and Ohio rivers.
And they stopped for a long while in Cairo. What they saw and what they heard motivated them to return to Southern Illinois. They did so with a documentary in mind, “Between Two Rivers: Cairo, Illinois,” which will premiere in this year’s Big Muddy Film Festival with special showings scheduled in Herrin and Cairo.
The 95-minute production is described as a production with a variety of people telling a story about their town and includes clips of historic film footage, photographs and views of area topography. It’s a story of a town with a difficult history that has and continues to face substantial difficulties.
The latest crisis facing Cairo, a town evacuation about a year ago because of the rising Ohio and Mississippi rivers, is also included.
“Our previous visits to Southern Illinois and the region left us with a sense of curiosity and wonder that piqued our interest in Cairo’s past and present, and this film is the result. What drew us to Cairo is how preposterously exotic it is,” Cartwright said about the film’s genesis.
People who have gotten a sneak preview, including SIU President Glenn Poshard, are raving.
Poshard wrote to Cartwright and Jordan in December saying Two Rivers is “by far the most balanced and comprehensive coverage about Cairo and its place in American history” that he has ever seen. “You have contributed to the understanding of an important part of the issue of racial prejudice and the demise of an American city,” Poshard wrote.
SIU Morris Library Administrator Gordon Pruett, who helped with research for the filmmakers, said he was impressed by their work.
“There is no voiceover narration. There’s a lot of indigenous sounds as they capture the spirit of the moment at the time of the filming and let the subjects speak for themselves,” Pruett said.
Cartwright, who has returned for showings of Two Rivers, will answer questions after each showing. He remains nearly overwhelmed about the entire experience.
“We have always been drawn to the States. It’s such a great mystery, and this is an aspect of American culture. Cairo offered something back to us. It was a profound experience going there.”