»Los Angeles has long been critic's prime illustration of urban sprawl, urban environmental degradation, and the loss of community. The history of Los Angeles during the twentieth century is seen by such critics as representative of the process of urbanization where undeveloped land (open space) is forever being subdivided, where rivers and streams are turned into concrete thoroughafters, where community is overwhelmed by the omnipresent automobile or reshaped by the continuing migrations into the city, and where the word sprawl has become synonymous with what passes for planning. For these critics, Los Angeles represents the absence of nature and community in the city. In this sense, Los Angeles has become the representative of the contemporary urban form in the United States.« - Robert Gottlieb, Reinventing Los Angeles, 2007 »The Los Angeles River Project« is a narrative film as an investigation of urban and ecological space. The narration is based on socio-political, scientific research depicting a metropolis that just started to acknowledge WATER as an essential, lacking source. Thus the work of a water biologist and ecologist on the Los Angeles River as well as the life of a homeless man, an outlaw who lives at the river’s bank in wild nature, shape the central theme of the film shot purely on location. The ultimate setting of the project is the urban riverbed, built in the 1950s out of concrete, is defined as the “developed river“. Here the river is permanently controlled for a minimum/ maximum water level, is constantly cleaned by several public and private forces so that a highway-like aesthetic appears, which gives the river itself a questionable reputation and depiction within popular culture. Brent is a shy and contemplative man, a minority himself as an African American within environmental sciences in the US. Through spending time with Jill, a laid off high scholl teacher he falls in love with, his sensitivity towards his environment grows and leads him to even enjoy suspicious sites of the river. Brent enters a parallel world the deeper he enters the river's site and his attention meanders from purely scientific to anthropological and social observation. The second part of the film takes place in the “undeveloped river“, where a disorganized forest of tropical plants and, at times, heavily contaminated water, due to the annual flooding period, have never been completely remediated. The area is thus left to illegal inhabitants or young Mexicans fishing in the water, a setting, which reminds one of the slums of South America. The area, whilst being fenced off, is comprised of late-modernist, industrial architecture and includes the concrete riverbed and highway bridges. In strong contrast, newly designed parks, golf courses and artificial green commons have been created in the LA suburbs, further distinguishing the above described environment and its utility. Finally, after several adventures along the stream and tributaries, Brent meets Marvin, a homeless man residing on the river's bank having left his family 19 years ago. Their conversation and time together seems to connect through the river, the other lead character, and brings together what felt so far apart: cultural and educational background and status, generation, race and American ways of life. Brent and Marvin's friendship established during a night conversation in Marvin's tent remembers both the forgotten river and its current inhabitants - homeless people who once opted out of society, forgotten and struggling to survive. When Brent' and Marvin's paths separate the morning after we realize that things might not change immediately and the film would not offer suggestions for resolving. Instead the open ending creates space for contemplation and reflection by the audience on the status depicted. The film develops along this frontier of the socialized wilderness, taking into account technology and planning, the command of nature and its demarcation with the urban, as reflected through the stateless person who inhabits this denaturalized and destroyed environment. Despite these extremes the two protagonists with very different backgrounds and reference systems, meet at the riverbank; whilst the scientist Brent takes water samples and monitors the river's local wildlife, he encounters the homeless Marvin and begins to investigate his survival strategy. During the course of the film, the characters begin to communicate and their life philosophies collide in interesting ways. The river carries a political meaning; having yet to be officially declared a river at all, it is instead defined as a channel in order to circumvent strict water quality rules. The river is also a site of social consequence; Marvin has opted out of society and into this urban wilderness. The Los Angeles River Project is a film that engages in a discourse about the contemporary politics of ecology and urbanization in a context of financial crisis in the middle class in the 100-mile highway-city of Los Angeles. The Los Angeles River has previously been a location for commercial film productions, but it has not been used as a real shooting location involving its natural content and sociopolitical meaning, which this film will honor. Instead it shall reflect - in an aesthetic-poetic, political and naturalistic manner - on man's relationship to urban space, to separation and to habitat, both human and natural. Conceived in collaboration with non-professional performers met during field and scientific research, this film offers a unique experience of how purely people interact and treat their environment, understand each other’s personal situation within the nature of things. The Los Angeles River Project has been mentored through development, production and post-prodcution by Thom Andersen, James Benning, Lisandro Alonso and Apichatpong Weerasethakul.