Experiencing Interruptions?

In the River's Flow

At the Lewis & Clark Exploratory Center, an educational center in Charlottesville, Virginia, we asked children to find objects along the Rivanna River, objects that had washed up or trash that been left behind by people spending time on the river. We told the children that the only guideline was that they select objects that would float. Children chose natural and human-made items, and we floated the selection above an underwater camera. We gave lessons in filmmaking as we also discussed the environmental impact of the human-made items: among them an aluminum can, a bait box, and a plastic bag. The children's selection reveals the amount of trash discarded or forgotten by people as they relax, fish, and play. Some of the objects were brought downriver by recent floods; others were thrown away on site. We removed the trash out of the river afterwards and discarded or recycled it.

Finally, we showed the children the fish in the river, as well as the natural debris as it moved suspended through the currents. We filmed in the sunshine and the rain as we captured the rhythm of the river's flow.

  • Alexandria Searls
    Black Spot, Party and Protest, Buy Nothing Day, Immersion/Inversion, A Portrait in Water
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Experimental, Short
  • Genres:
    underwater, nature, environment
  • Runtime:
    2 minutes 56 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    July 3, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    1,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
    1920 x 1080
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Highway Walkers Film Festival Denali National Park Education Center
    Denali, Alaska
    United States
    July 19, 2019
    North American premiere
    Official Selection
  • London Experimental Film Festival
    United Kingdom
    Official Selection
  • Equinox Mountain Environmental Film Festival
    Manchester, Vermond
    United States
    Official Selection
  • Mykonos Biennale
    Official Selection
  • International Underwater Film Festival
    Official Selection
Director Biography - Alexandria Searls

Alexandria Searls teaches underwater (and above water) filmmaking at the Lewis & Clark Exploratory Center in Charlottesville, Virginia, the location for "In the River's Flow." She has also taught video production at the University of Virginia, and she has written a photography textbook, "FIfteen Exercises in Perception," which was inspired by her teaching experiences.

Her underwater films have shown in the US and internationally this year. "A Portrait in Water" was nominated for Best Experimental Film at the Carmarthen Bay Film Festival in Wales (BAFTA qualifying), and also won an award at the Richmond Environmental Film Festival. "Immersion/Inversion" is showing at the VASTLAB Experimental Film Festival in Los Angeles in September. Other venues include Colorado, Italy, London, Mexico, Germany, and Bali. Searls is a visiting artist at Hampden-Sydney College in Fall 2019.

Other works, mostly political and activist films, have shown at the International Film Festival Rotterdam ("Black Spot"), the Virginia Film Festival ("Buy Nothing Day"), the Big Muddy Film Festival ("The End of My Enchilada"), and the Maryland Film Festival ("Party & Protest"). Recently her film on gun violence, "The Etiquette of Massacres," showed at the Feminist Border Arts Film Festival in New Mexico.

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Director Statement

For the past sixteen years I've been living and working by the Rivanna River. I began taking still photographs of the river,and then I started making short, underwater films. I experiment with the visual qualities of filming through water. The surface of the river becomes a second lens. The water acts sometimes like a window, sometimes like a mirror, and at other times like a prism. "In the River's Flow" documents a lesson in filmmaking and in the environment for elementary and middle school children. We sought out items that would float, items that had ended up on a little jut of land that is sometimes an island in the river and at other times a connected promontory. Floods bring in human-made and natural debris. Visitors leave their traces. We learned about the uses and misuse of the river by examining the trash.