Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

FOR LOVE OF ST. JOHNS; Film Is an Attractive, Affectionate Look at Our River

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

FOR LOVE OF ST. JOHNS; Film Is an Attractive, Affectionate Look at Our River

Article excerpt

Byline: ROGER BULL

It's the river that the French sailed into almost 450 years ago to found the first permanent European settlement in North America. And it's the same river many of us drive over every day.

River Into the New World, a new documentary that ties together the past and present of the St. Johns River, will make its Jacksonville premiere Saturday afternoon at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. The city helped pay for the movie to be made, and the event is a fund-raiser for the St. Johns River Alliance. The non-profit group formed to protect the river, one of 14 federally designated American Heritage Rivers.

The film paints an attractive, affectionate portrait of the river, and the narration is full of superlatives: The first river, slowest river, most diverse wildlife of any river . . .

It flows with the river from south to north, from the marshes and lakes east of Vero Beach and Melbourne to its junction with the Atlantic Ocean at Mayport. But it pauses along the way to talk about history, from the Brevard County burial grounds that date back 8,000 years to the steamboat traffic that came through Jacksonville on its way to Sanford in the 1880s.

And the film stops to talk with those whose lives still are tied to the river: fisherman and guides, authors and scientists. Along with the well-known names of William Bartram and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, there's Huey Judah serving up fried legs at the Fellsmere Frog Leg Festival; Wes Dinkins, who gave up gator poaching when it became a federal violation and gives airboat rides to tourists; and Stanley Oglesby, who, when out hunting gators one night, saw a hippopotamus in the St. Johns.

Oglesby didn't tell anyone for a while -- "I was scared they'd laugh at me bad," he said -- but the hippo was real. It had escaped from a nearby zoo and was soon recaptured.

Tom Lowe wrote and directed the film. …

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