Not often do we hear that the inspiration behind a film was a body of water, especially one as little known as the San Marcos River. Such is the case, however for Anlo Sepulveda and Paul Collins‘s Yakona. The documentary presents the San Marcos River as a character itself, in fact, the only character in a film with no interviews or narration. The visuals hit all the highlights of the river’s past, including reenactments of fights that took place when Europeans came to settle on the land. The directors stated that the river seemed to speak for itself and did not need anyone else to do the talking, which led them to producing a unique movie that aptly fits in the Visions category at SXSW.
The film was ten years in the making because the footage took a long time to capture, edit and color correct.
The natural footage spans many years and ecosystems portraying birds, fish and insects in the calm deep water, through the rough current and onto the banks and surrounding areas. Many real life events were captured over this time that show the importance of preservation and sustainability: protestors fight to keep the river from over development and scientists dive beneath the surface to observe underwater habitats. Meanwhile, human events are juxtaposed with nature taking its course as birds and fish, even snapping turtles hunt for food. Anyone with a short attention span might have difficulty watching a film nearly one and a half hours long with no dialogue to speak of. However, Yakona won the SXSW Audience Award for a reason – it truly exposes all elements of the river in a beautiful and satisfying way. The score by Justin Sherburn guides the film along in the absence of voice over. While the flash backs seem a little overdone, they do help to show the river’s longevity. Yakona is exactly the kind of film SX attendees look for and it will be enjoyed long after the festival ends.