By Sebastian Fryer
Although it cuts through the heart of Kalamazoo, not many citizens necessarily know about the Kalamazoo River.
Through film and song, Matt Dunstone hopes to change that.
“Kalamazoo, River: US” is a documentary that has been in the works for about seven years.The film follows the history of the Kalamazoo River and the effect of pollutants on the river.
Although “Kalamazoo, River: US” is a documentary, it does not follow typical documentary film tropes. The film mixes traditional documentary archival footage and talking head interviews with musical numbers, fake music videos, and comedic acting. Director Matt Dunstone describes it as an “experimental documentary.”
“The movie oftentimes escapes description because it has so many other things going on,” Dunstone said.
“But it’s still, at heart, a documentary about the history of the river as told through two dueling narrators – one for the side of nature, one for the side of industry.”
The film began when Dunstone returned from Austin, Tex. to his hometown of Kalamazoo.After working as an assistant on such films as “Office Space” and “The Rookie,” he realized that he needed to start writing and producing his own films if he wanted to make it in the film industry.
Thus, “Kalamazoo, River: US” was born.
On a shoestring budget, Dunstone employed many of his good friends to help him work on the project, all for little to no pay.
“It is a local, homegrown cast and crew,” he said.
The crew also held fundraisers and letter-writing campaigns to raise money for filming.
While the film utilizes archival footage, new material was filmed locally in places such as the old Gibson building, pre-renovation Brown Hall, and of course, the banks of the Kalamazoo River.
Even though the documentary is low budget, Dunstone noted that the film makes comedic reference of this very early on.
“The line we’re riding here is comedy and, really, that’s sort of one of the intentions, to take on a different veneer of how to discuss toxic waste which clearly is something that most people want to, or really don’t care to talk about,” he said.
Dunstone stated that while the comedy will appeal to a universal demographic, college students will specifically find humor in the film.
The director compared the humor of “Kalamazoo, River: US” to that of the popular television show “The Simpsons.”
Overall, though, Dunstone believes that people should attend just for the experience of a film that breaks the mold of the usual documentary.
“It’s not a normal story,” he said. “It’s unlike any documentary you’ve seen before.”
“Kalamazoo, River: US” will premiere at Rave Motion Pictures Cityplace 14 on Oct. 24 at 7:30 p.m. Following the event, an after-party will be held at Martini’s.
The film will then be screened at Kalamazoo 10 on Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. and on Nov. 5 at 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m.
The film will also be shown at Martini’s on Nov. 14 at 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
For more information on “Kalamazoo, River: US,” visit www.kalamazooriverus.com, or visit the film’s group page on Facebook.