Big River Man (image 1)

The pivotal figure in this excellent documentary has so much personality its a wonder he fits on the screen

Manohla Dargis, NY Times

Screened as part of NZIFF 2009

Big River Man 2008

Directed by John Maringouin

Marathon swimmer Martin Strel, attributing his endurance to a diet of horse burgers and alcohol, takes on the Amazon. “[Strel has] so much personality it’s a wonder he fits on the screen.” — NY Times

UK / USA In English and Portuguese with English subtitles
94 minutes DigiBeta

Director, Photography

Co-director

Molly Lynch

Producers

Maria Florio
,
Molly Lynch
,
John Maringouin
,
Kevin Ragsdale
,
Molly Hassell

Editors

John Maringouin
,
Molly Lynch

Music

Rich Ragsdale

With

Martin Strel
,
Borut Strel
,
Matt Mohlke

Festivals

Sundance 2009

Elsewhere

Marathon endurance swimmer Martin Strel is the Captain Bad Example of extreme sports, attributing his stamina to a diet of horse burgers and alcohol. The raucous beer-bellied Slovenian has swum the length of the Mississippi and survived the toxic wastes that stream into the Yangtze. At 52, he's ready for the Amazon. His English-speaking son/manager/spin doctor Borut accentuates environmental awareness and raises sponsorship. Filmmaker John Maringouin follows as the Strels and their self-taught American navigator prepare for piranhas and penis-invading parasites, and embark on the 3274-mile swim. As Strel Snr succumbs to sunburn, spurns doctor's instructions and knocks back whisky like it's a sports drink, he becomes as demented as any of Herzog's Amazon adventurers, and twice as bizarre to behold – a white-masked monster muscling down the mighty currents. Superbly photographed and with an ecstatic operatic score, the film glories in the Amazon's primeval splendour and one man's indomitability, but with an ear tuned to the siren call of oblivion. — BG

“Maringouin's filming of the swim – a Super Size Me of sport – is a marathon in itself, shifting between a chronicle of Strel's hazardous journey (shot from a creaky rented Peruvian ship of fools) and a tour of a glorious paradise that is under siege... Has Strel become a martyr to the cause of saving the Amazon, or is he just a self-destructive lunatic who'll do anything for cash from his sponsors? Is he a nautical Borat? That ambiguity makes for some gripping drama once the laughter subsides and Strel, near death, thrashes to the end of his 3274-mile journey.” — David  D'Arcy, Screendaily