Writer/Director Jamie M. Dagg made his feature film debut at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival with River and then traveled to the Whistler Film Festival where it won awards for Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Canadian Feature. It has also been awarded the prestigious Best First Feature by the Canadian Screen Awards.
River takes us on a frantic getaway in Laos, from the shores of the Mekong River, up to the mountains in the north and stars Rossif Sutherland as John, an American volunteer doctor working for an NGO in a village in southern Laos. On his way home after an alcohol-soaked evening at a local bar, John intervenes in the sexual assault of a young woman, and the violence quickly escalates. The next day, the assailant's body is pulled out of the water.
All the evidence points to John, who recognizes the nightmare that awaits if he's captured by the local authorities, and realizes that his only hope is to reach the US Embassy. With no time to think and no one to count on, he goes on the run.
Rossif Sutherland is best known for his roles in HYENA ROAD, HELLIONS and the TV series REIGN. He has been nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in RIVER.
Sutherland gives an outstanding and energetic performance as a man fuelled by fear and guided only by instinct. While we are on the edge of our seats for most of the film it focuses on the incompatibility of different nations' judicial systems. It also makes you ponder the questions, was John's vigilante action the right thing to do? Is escaping the right thing for him to do now? River manages to keep these issues present in our minds while remaining relentlessly on the move, that doesn't let up for one minute.
I spoke with director Jamie M Dagg and Rossif Sutherland during the Toronto International Film Festival about working on this film, shooting on location and more.
RIVER opens in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver Friday March 11th.