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The Same River Twice

The evolution of a group of river guides from the late 70s to today.

A printer-friendly version of this page 78 minutes
Directed by Robb Moss
Produced by Next Life Films
Associate Producer: Linda Morgenstern
Editor: Karen Schmeer

"A piercingly poignant then-and-now palpable it puts a lump in your throat." Stephen Holden, New York Times
If you could look your future in the eye, would it recognize you?

In 1978, on a breath-taking trip in the Grand Canyon, filmmaker Robb Moss and a group of free-spirited friends and lovers took a month-long trip down the Colorado River. Cutting between footage of their youthful, often naked, unscheduled lives and the complex realities of their adulthood today, the film creates a compelling portrait of cultural metamorphosis. From running rapids to running for mayor, THE SAME RIVER TWICE is a story of change, choices, and of finding one's place in the world.

Grade Level: College, Adult
US Release Date: 2004     Copyright Date: 2003
DVD ISBN: 1-59458-060-X     VHS ISBN: 1-59458-059-6

"Powerful...Compelling...Graceful... Part of what makes The Same River Twice great is its highly selective and shaped methods of portraying the individuals, almost as if they were fictional creations. The way in which the present gradually overtakes the past in this film is more evidence of Moss's flawless sense of narrative construction."
Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

"A piercingly poignant then-and-now palpable it puts a lump in your throat."
Stephen Holden, New York Times

"Graceful... Fluid and Loose ... The Same River Twice will exert the same alluring pull as Michael Apted's 7-Up and other where-are-they-now investigations into the passage of real lives."
Ella Taylor, LA Weekly

"... Insightful. Profound. Succeeds through articulate, nostalgic sequences of introspection linked by poetic camerawork."
Ron Elder, Chicago Tribune

"Witty and beautifully constructed, it is inexorably affecting even beyond the strength of its material; it feels lived but it has the sweet structure usually found only in narrative fiction."
Ray Pride, New City

"...An intimate, heartfelt exploration of the gap between the freedom, idealism and insecurity of youth, and the responsibilities and realities of middle age."
Deborah Hornblow, Hartford Courant

"...Magical. A poignant meditation on life as a work in progress."
Moira Macdonald, Seattle Times

"Although full of lithe young naked bodies cavorting in their '70s prime, the real attraction to this poignant, elegiac then-and-now boomer documentary may be the Colorado River."
Brian Miller, Seattle Weekly

"Sharp, witty, and compassionate."
Melissa Levine, San Francisco Weekly

Carla Meyer, San Francisco Chronicle

"Extraordinarily affecting! A subtle, beautiful film that has strong narrative drive as well as visual elegance. All life is here."
Emma Perry, Time Out London

"Achieves a beguiling intimacy...the Colorado River's striking natural beauty, creating an organic and timeless backdrop to this poignant study of the sharp twists and turns our lives can take."
Time Out New York

"Poignant simplicity. A pleasure to watch."
Philip Kennicott, The Washington Post

"Beguiling, lyrical portrait of idealism and adulthood."
Bilge Ebiri, New York Magazine

"A deft, humane slice of American life."
Washington City Paper

"Transcendent - the connection Moss makes with his audience is not just about chances lost or bucolic memories. It's about how people change or don't - how they miss the changes they might have made, for reasons well-meant or not. And how, sometimes, they know what it is they want to make them happy at a time when most are still splashing around, tout nude, in the happy pool of possibility and promise. What River is about is memory as embrace, not just for those who were there, but for those who weren't."
John Anderson, Newsday

"Has the built-in curiosity value of watching real people evolve on camera -- a fascination increased by subjects' commitment to countercultural ideals. Subjects are engaging and articulate. In Moss' lovely old 16 mm color footage, their naked forms against spectacular landscapes have an effect more neo-classically aesthetic than titillating."
Dennis Harvey, Variety

"Mr. Moss, then a river guide and now a Harvard film professor, makes The Same River Twice a tone poem on the answers that were never discovered by the idealistic kids he had filmed years before and the new questions chasing them down."
Elvis Mitchell, The New York Times

"An enlightening, intimate look at the ever-changing nature of human relationships."
Gary Dowell, Dallas News

"Moss creates an astonishing, multi-layered group portrait of unsettling beauty and pathos."
Eugene Hernandez, indieWIRE

"A bittersweet and elegiac documentary. Combines old footage of a whitewater expedition, (director Moss and his Berkeley friends took), often in the nude, in 1977 with contemporary interviews highlighting what they have become. A telling, compelling meditation on the way age and experience, and intimations of mortality, influence our attitudes to our bodies and our sense of free-spiritedness."
Steven Rosen, The Denver Post

"Lyrically nostalgic - a lighter look at the free spirit of the time."
Sharon Waxman, Washington Post

"Sustains a mood of tender ruefulness - which still resonates long after I've lost track of which (Sundance) movies starred Patricia Clarkson."
Lisa Schwartzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

"A sagacious, mature work. Wry, ironic, pragmatic...and it's certainly not a Big Chill tale. Lawrence Kasdan's film serves up lie-on-your-ass, screw-the-stupid-'60s defeatism. The Same River Twice, defiantly anti-Big Chill, is optimistically pro 1960s and 1970s and pro social activism. Kasdan's movie has the good score; Moss's people have the good core"
Gerry Peary, The Boston Phoenix

"Naked hippies! Nnnnoooooooo! Hey, but these hippies are into white water rafting. Extreme hippies. It's a no-brainer that this film will appeal to the middle-aged crowd who indulged in the '60s and '70s proper. But even for a youngun like myself, I found the film thoroughly entertaining and was even laughing out-loud along with the rest of the audience. Congratulations to Robb Moss for making such a crowd-pleaser."
Eric Campos, Film Threat

"Robb Moss' amazing film is as heartbreaking as it is that rarest of beasts, a genuinely life-affirming piece that relies on the peculiarities of the human animal rather than false piety or tones of moral superiority. The Same River Twice is as organic as its title implies, contemplating a short 16mm film taken the summer of 1978 of a group of hippies ... engaged in a communal trip down the middle of the Grand Canyon and comparing it to the rafters as they are today, embroiled in the mendacity and the muted joys of the day-to-day. Melancholy and nostalgic, the picture has moments that are as poignant and heartfelt as any in any film this year."
Walter Chaw, Film Freak Central

"The film's subjects are what make The Same River Twice most engaging -- they are warm, reflective, down-to-earth people who defy every stereotype of the hippie-turned-establishment sellout. They still, in small and simple ways, live outside the workaday grid."
Felicia Feaster, Creative Loafing, Atlanta

"A fascinating, intimate documentary that dispels the myth that the generation that tuned in, turned on and dropped out - later sold out. Navigating life's bumps like those on the rivers they used to ride down, these baby boomers are still questioning life's choices."
Paul Sherman, President, Boston Society of Film Critics

"A tender and moving look at some of the essential questions about living a life: How do we make our choices, and what do we regret? Are we where we thought we'd be? How does aging affect us? And, perhaps most pointedly, can we integrate the person we used to be with the person we are now?"
Melissa Levine, East Bay Express

"An engrossing film on many levels, from the undeniable aural/visual tug of river rapids and canyon walls (plus the tanned, naked bodies of the 'riverdogs') to the careful storytelling and deft characterizations of Moss's present-day subjects."
Johnette Rodriguez, The Providence Phoenix

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The Same River Twice web site

Awards and Festivals
Nominee, IFP Independent Spirit Award
Official Selection, Sundance Film Festival
Official Selection, AFI Film Festival
Best Documentary Film, Nashville Independent Film Festival
Best Documentary Film, Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival
Best Documentary Film, New England Film and Video Festival
Audience Award, Chicago International Documentary Film Festival
San Francisco International Film Festival
Full Frame Documentary Film Festival
Taos Talking Picture Festival
Vancouver International Film Festival
Munich Film Festival
Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival
Aspen Film Festival
Denver International Film Festival
Cork Film Festival
Calgary International Film Festival
Atlanta Film Festival
Newport International Film Festival
Festival do Rio, Brazil
Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival
Asheville Film Festival
Rochester High Falls Film Festival
Port Townsend Film Festival
Woods Hole Film Festival
Provincetown International Film Festival
Nantucket Film Festival
MidCoast Film & Arts Festival
Get Real Documentary Film Festival, Minneapolis
Big Sky Documentary Film Festival
Greenbelt Film Festival
American Psychological Association Convention

American Studies
Film Studies
Western US

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... more Reviews

"This nostalgic and insightful take on the past and friendship was one of the better documentaries of the (AFI) festival. It is about the reflections of five people recalling a river trip taken in their 20s in the Grand Canyon 25 years ago. Sounds boring, right? It's not. Filmmaker Robb Moss combines footage taken during the river trip and cross-cuts it with footage of their lives today, along with interviews. Although the premise is rather simple, it is a thoroughly engrossing film about memory, counter-culture, the beauty and appreciation of the outdoors, nudity, aging, and lifestyle changes."
Matt Langdon,

"Moss's cinematic time line is drawn with the kind of candidness and honesty that only intimate knowledge allows. This is 'direct cinema' that transports you back in time as it showcases a generation that took its value-changing youth seriously. Despite growing up and having to adjust to societal norms, they are clearly still 'under the influence' of a river that flows through their lives."
Geoff Gilmore, Director, Sundance Film Festival

"The Big Chill, documentary style."
Pablo Kjolseth, Movie Habit

"...This is personal filmmaking at its most intimate and lasting."
Craig Outhier, Orange County Register

"Uncommonly thought-provoking."
Charles Britton, Daily Breeze

"Sweet, sensitive and insightful...Everything Moss shows us is worth noting; ... if capturing life as it's lived is one of documentary's nobler missions, this one carries us pleasantly along to that rewarding destination."
Bob Strauss, Daily News

"Other documentaries have crisscrossed between time frames, but Moss' beguiling The Same River Twice represents one of the most effective uses of the device. To begin with, Riverdogs is the stuff of time capsules. Here are 17 people in their 20s, old enough to have felt the impact of the Vietnam War, who have formed a group knitted closely enough to dispense with clothing for much of the time and enjoy a summer idyll. Danny, a vibrant, 48-year-old Santa Fe, N.M., aerobics instructor, looks back fondly at the experience as 'the complete package: fun, sex, companionship, music, beauty'.
It is Barry [now the director of a psychiatric hospital in Placerville, Calif.], however, who provides The Same River Twice with its arc and its meaning.... Like the others, he looks back on that extraordinary summer but sees it as part of a continually unfolding life that for him has been rich and challenging. In considering his youth, current middle age and coming old age, Barry suggests that we remember that 'we all get just one turn at each.'"
Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times

"Highly Recommended"
Karen MacArthur, Educational Media Reviews Online

"*** A past-and-present tapestry of lives in progress that's as poignant as it is uplifting... The Same River Twice achieves a resonance that's profoundly moving and universally appealing... this is the kind of film that will affect viewers in many different ways..."
Video Librarian

"Not lending itself to easy analysis, this documentary remains haunting in its premise... A good choice for sophisticated collections."
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