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~ All Along the Sava ~

In this unconventional documentary an ancient river tells us her story, in dialogue with the inhabitants that corset her flow.

About the project

Documentary Synopsis:

All Along the Sava is a river movie taking the viewer on a meditative 990 km journey through the countries of the West Balkans, once united under the umbrella of Yugoslavia. With Sava as the protagonist (voiced by Mira Furlan - The Abandoned, Lost, Babylon 5), this unconventional documentary merges contemporary and historical narratives with a guiding ethereal voice to explore the human relationship with nature, borders and nationhood.

We first travelled along Sava in 2013 returning on several trips over the years. You will meet a broad stroke of characters on a 990km journey reflecting the ever changing landscape as we pass through alpine landscapes and vast plains, villages, cities, national parks and industrial zones. There are old men who still think of times past, working in the steel mills, factories and refineries when Sava was The Dead River but their boyhood memories remember her vigour. We meet younger people who acknowledge their heritage, but look forward, building new bridges amongst people through arts, activism and emigration. Then there are those who still rely on the river, the hydroplant director, fishermen and ferrymen. And finally those affected by her, the victims of floods and towns divided by the river as a border.

Sava acts as a conduit for a multitude of voices across generations, nations and livelihoods, uniting a variety of perspectives with her own thoughtful meditations. We decided to give nature a say in this narrative, to create a discourse between people and nature, and our first choice to act as a spokeperson on behalf of Sava was Mira Furlan. When asked why she wanted to be part of the project she said:

"We live in a world that cultivates forces of hatred, fear and war mongering. In such a world a project like Sava present a ray of hope. It reminds us of the force of nature that cannot be tamed by humans and their politics of violence. The river stays above all division and serves as a clear lesson, a lesson that we, humans, seem unable or unwilling to hear. As a citizen of the former Yugoslavia, a country destroyed by murderous politics, I see this project as part of a badly needed healing process for the region and beyond."

Forming in Slovenia's Julian alps, close to her borders with Austria and Italy, our journey starts in idyllic alpine surroundings but first impressions can be misleading. The rivers waters travel the length of the country, but at times her flow is restricted, and with more dams planned eco activists worry 'Lake Sava' will irreversibly destroy the rivers ecosystem. Crossing our first border we enter Croatia cutting through Zagreb and head south through the Lonjsko Polje wetlands and the historic borderlands between two ancient empires, the Habsburg and Ottoman, a meeting point for the occident and orient.

Today Sava mirrors this historic frontier as a boundary of the European Union, forming the border between Croatia and Bosnia. As we travel east toward Serbia we pass through communities united for the better part of a century, today they're segregated by the river and their passports - despite enmity between politicians many residents are building bridges accross borders. Entering Serbia we find ourselves at a triple frontier merging with Croatian and Bosnian lands before rolling on through their Western plains and floundering industrial towns on our way to the Danube and the metropolis of Belgrade where we find a legacy of corruption, apathy and activism. 

Sava engages narratives of identity and heritage by exploring the young nations and their relationships with each other and through the people living on, and connected by, her.

Afterlife of the Documentary:

A defining motivation of All Along the Sava is its afterlife, not only as a documentary film but as a continuing project made up of three elements enabled by the documentary. 

Firstly the film will be taken back along its course to be shown in village halls and city cinemas, giving Sava communities an opportunity see and think about their river as a whole, not just their own local section.

Secondly an exhibition in the three Sava capitals (Ljubljana, Zagreb & Belgrade) which will feature segments of film, river artefacts, folk tales, artworks and a 360 degree video installation. The exhibition will also be shown in the United Kingdom.

Finally there will be an interactive website (www.allalongthesava.com) showing a map of the river basin with two layers. The first will be short 2-5 minute films from places along the Sava that haven’t been included in the documentary, or edited excerpts taken from it. The second layer will be made up of curated and submitted content, including that featured in the exhibition, but supplemented by that which wasn’t possible to/or did not make the exhibition.

What are the funds for?

At the moment we are looking for a small amount of crowdfunding, mainly to buy a boat! If you've come this far we hope you will join us on this journey. We are used to shooting on a budget, being creative, often sleeping by the river. We will edit a teaser on returning and start editing while seeking additional funding to pay for the musicians, colour grading and festival distribution. Or we keep working and do it ourselves for the love of Sava. After the costs of rewards and Ulule's share we will be left with approximately £4,000 (estimate). We will contribute £4,000 collectively to the film to complete the £8,000 needed to complete the filming.

The money from this campaign will be spent on making a final filming trip this summer for six more weeks, most of the crowdfunded money will be spent on the boat, the rest on local fixers, translating interviews and recording Mira's voiceover. Our portion will cover our expenses, travel, equipment and insurance.

The boat will enable us to realise our longstanding vision for the visual element of the documentary. An unfolding kaleidoscope of imagery experimentally cut together with our drone and documentary footage to create for the viewer the feeling of really travelling All Along the Sava and really experiencing her as we have.

On this trip we will be filming daily for several weeks and be able to: 

  • Reshoot much of the scenery to provide continuity in weather and enhance the feeling of moving downstream.
  • Fill gaps in the grand narrative with new interviewees in previously undercovered parts of the river.
  • Find locations to screen the film by opening dialogue with local municipalities.

If you'd like to support the project in another way, such as accomodation or logistics, then please email us at [email protected]

About the project owner

Matthew Somerville is a self-shooting director and filmmaker with a background in documentary photography. He is a co-founder of the documentary collective Configure/Disfigure and 5 years ago founded production company Sava Films and to work on projects, usually with a social or environmental perspective. His short documentaries have screened at a number of international film festivals and All Along the Sava will be his first feature length production. Matthew enoys making indirect documenntaries which have recently been drawing on parralells between nature and humanity.

Dan McCrum is graduate in History which he studied in combination with heritage studies and political ideas, he combines this knowledge with his documentary and photography interests, as well as working on and researching for All Along the Sava. He is interested in social and environmental issues and the power structures that underly them. Widely travelled across Europe and the Balkan Peninusula his favourite achievement to date is cycling from his hometown to Istanbul, writing a popular blog along the way - Byzantium my Destination - and biggest dissapointment the theft of his camera in Athens.

Mira Furlan is a Croatian actress who today lives and works in the USA since being forced to flee her homecountry after the outbreak of war in 1991. She was a popular actress throughout the Yugoslav republics starring in both cinematic and theatrical productions. She is a humanist and pacifist, in the build up to conflict she continued performing in both Zagreb and Belgrade in spite of the derision and threats from hypernationalist. Such was her devotion to her art and the warring cities, she would travel ardously for twenty hours a time through Austria and Hungary at great financial and emotional costs. Best known internationally for her performances as Danielle Rosseau in Lost she has also appeared in many feature films including the widely acclaimed The Abandoned (2010) and When Father was Away on Business (1985).

Thanks for viewing the Campaign.

“Forgetfulness heals everything and song is the most beautiful manner of forgetting, for in song man feels only what he loves.”
― Ivo Andrić, The Bridge on the Drina.

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