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Willem Dafoe to Narrate ‘River’ Documentary From ‘Sherpa’ Helmer

Willem Dafoe is set to narrate the documentary “River” from “Sherpa” director Jennifer Peedom.

Produced by Stranger Than Fiction and Arrow Pictures, “River” is an exploration of the timeless relationship between humanity and rivers. Billed as an orchestral concert film, the doc is an ode to the natural word and a retelling of the history of both rivers and human civilization. With a score composed by Richard Tognetti from the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Dafoe will narrate a script from award-winning author and fellow of Cambridge University, Robert Macfarlane (“Mountains of the Mind,” “Underland”). The film will also feature additional music from William Barton, Jonny Greenwood and Radiohead.

“I wanted to be conscious of not dumping the words on top of the image or illustrating the music, but having them sonically blend,” said Dafoe, who also narrated Peedom’s 2017 doc “Mountain.”

“Of course there is some underlining but I try to let the words just open channels of thought and emotion, not control them or indicate an idea,” added the actor.

U.K. documentary sales outfit Dogwoof will unveil a 20-minute extended promo to buyers at the Cannes virtual market on Wednesday (June 23).

“River” is written and directed by Peedom and co-written and co-directed by Joseph Nizeti, produced by Joanne McGowan and Peedom for Stranger Than Fiction and John Smithson for Arrow Pictures.

Commissioned by Australian broadcaster ABC and BBC Arts, “River” is a co-production with the Australian Chamber Orchestra and Screen Australia. The pic will make its world premiere in late summer followed by theatrical releases in late 2021. Dogwoof will release the film in the U.K. while Madman will take the pic for Australia and New Zealand.

“River” spans six continents and draws on contemporary cinematography, including satellite filming, to shows rivers on scales and from perspectives never seen before. The project builds on the huge success of Peedom’s previous film, “Mountain,” which is the highest-grossing Australian documentary in box office history, and completed an 11-week run in U.K. and U.S. cinemas.

Peedom and Arrow Pictures’ previous collaboration, “Sherpa” (2015), was BAFTA-nominated and won best documentary at the London Film Festival. It also won at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards, Australian Film Critics Association Awards and Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards, among numerous other accolades.

“’River’ takes a birds’-eye view of humanity’s relationship with our most precious resource through time. It is a story about how our short-sighted attempts to control nature have backfired. We hope that ‘River’ prompts the audience to believe that encounters with nature can permanently shift — for the better — the way we think about the environment and how our decisions impact the environment,” said Peedom.

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