By Daniel PrattNestled beneath the concrete expanses of the world's biggest cities are rivers that once flowed freely. These rivers provided the infrastructure upon which modern metropolises were built but were covered to make way for progress and have long since been forgotten. Caroline Bâcle's Lost Rivers uncovers some of the vast underground network of urban rivers, opening our eyes to what is running beneath our feet.
Rivers were first concealed in London to assist in reducing waterborne disease caused by human pollution. Soon after, this concept was adopted the world over. These rivers now merge with sewer networks and are used to transfer waste to treatment facilities still using the original brickwork and tunnel systems that were designed more than a century ago.
Bâcle looks at the Cheonggyecheon Stream in Seoul, the Saw Mill River in Yonkers, the Bova-Celato River in Italy and the Garrison Creek in Toronto, retracing the history of the lost urban rivers while affording us a firsthand look at these hidden "museums" with a covert group of urban explorers.
We learn how activists, artists and urban planners are devising strategies to unearth the rivers, attempting to utilize natural water flow to ease the strained watershed infrastructure and reduce overflow waste from being dumped into lakes while, at the same time, creating natural park spaces for urbanites to reconnect with nature. Such projects have already taken place in Yonkers, Seoul and London with great success, yet the film seems to linger on the fact that the City of Toronto has rejected the same strategies and are doomed to continue causing excess pollution in Lake Ontario.
Lost Rivers is a fascinating examination of a hidden world previously unknown by most. It provides us with a spectacular look at an underground world with astutely observed editing and vibrant visuals. Looking past the somewhat grating political jabs at the City of Toronto, there is much to be learned and appreciated within. (Catbird)