Beyond The River – in cinemas for one day only!

Beyond The River, a film about more than just a marathon race, will be in cinemas next Monday May 13th, on general release for one day only.

Showings in Vue cinemas here

Read the film review by Stuart Fisher (editor, Canoeist) here:-

A film you will not want to miss

Beyond the River
1 hr 51 mins

The Dusi, a three day race over 120km of the Msunduzi and Mgeni rivers between Pietermaritzburg and Durban, has been described as the world’s toughest canoe race. Think Sella Descent with grade 3 rapids and Liffey Descent weirs, split up like the DW stage race. This race and the build up to it are the setting for this film, which includes some stunning race photography from aerial sequences to underwater shots. If for no other reason, marathon racers must see this film.

There is much more to it, however, beyond the river.

Steve, a white school teacher, has won the race nine times. He finishes a race on foot, carrying the two halves of his K1 after nearly drowning himself. The stress is becoming too much for his wife, their marriage falling apart. Then his long term racing paddler deserts him.

Duma, on the other hand, is a young township resident who has shown promise as a paddler but has drifted away into crime, primarily theft of electrical cables. The film begins with a chase by police who are only too ready to pull their guns. It is getting too dangerous and Duma is persuaded to return to canoeing instead, where he has potential to achieve significant results.

This is not straightforward. His peers cannot accept the change. His mother died when he was young and he has a younger sister to be supported. His father is angry at the prospect of Duma concentrating on canoe racing rather than bringing money into the household. His partner in crime gets caught and looks to Duma to provide the bail money.

Duma has a general fear of dogs after being bitten by a guard dog, with implications for the race training. His shortage of money causes various problems and pressures, including poor diet leading to brittle bones, resulting in an injury when threatened by a dog during training. Filming is often within a township with a backdrop of powerlines. Subtitles are used where required although they need to be read quickly before they disappear. The township filming is true to life.

The canoe club is also filmed regularly, especially the coaches and racers training on the water. There seems to be good integration between black and white paddlers although still the occasional deliberate racial jibe at Steve because of his pairing.

There would have been an opportunity for shiny new kit with sponsors advertising but this has been avoided, the film being much more realistic as a result. The general public might like to have terms such as ‘K2’ explained but that is a minor point. Although the long portage on this race is shown on a diagram, it is not made clear that it is quicker when the river loop is low but not when the water is up. There are some subtleties which will be picked up only by racers.

It is a very emotional film. At times each of the two central characters has tears pouring down his face. Even Duma’s question whether it is the ocean, when he sees it for the first time from the support vehicle, is humbling without anything more having to be said. Tensions between the two paddlers include who should sit in the bow and the relative relationship between the two.
If there is one thing which seems unlikely it is the central storyline, especially after the race starts. However, it is based on a true story with some still shots at the end of Siseko Ntdondini and Piers Cruickshanks in the 2014 race to drive the credibility home.

This is a brilliant film, perhaps the best canoeing picture ever on general release. Filmed with South African lottery support, it centres on a discipline of canoeing less well known outside the sport, covers it realistically and raises some issues which will have resonance for many serious competitors and take viewers out of their comfort zones and into territory largely unfamiliar to the general public in this country. It should be mandatory viewing for black youngsters and people involved with them. There is plenty of food for thought even for those with no interest in canoe racing.

Stuart Fisher
Apr 2019