December 2, 2019  (Web Review)

Rivers of Life

(2018) 165 min. DVD: $24.99 ($54.99 w/PPR). PBS Video ( SDH captioned. ISBN: 978-1-5317-1054-5.

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

Three enormous life-giving rivers are the focus of this multi-part PBS-aired documentary series narrated by Michael J. Hayes. The Nile, which is over 4,000 miles long, is the world’s longest river, rising in equatorial Africa, splitting between the “Blue” and the “White” Nile, and calming its mighty rush in marshes before crossing the Sahara Desert and emptying into the Mediterranean. Viewers see endangered storks, powerful and deadly hippos, and fishermen flushing out millions of flies, which are harvested for nutritious “fly burgers.” Elephants and crocodiles roam near the deserted country home of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, which is now a refuge for wildlife. Natives ply the ancient art of papyrus boatbuilding, and in the desert, camels are a moving oasis, storing water and providing milk, transportation, and food. Ninety-five percent of modern Egypt’s population lives near the Nile’s banks, and the river is a backdrop for the country’s ancient pyramids and monuments. The Amazon boasts 1,000 tributaries and provides one-fifth of the world’s fresh water, forming in the Peruvian Andes glaciers, and nourishing rainforests and diverse wildlife. The Amazon and surrounding environs are home to giant river otters, anacondas, barracudas, colorful macaws, unique Pink River dolphins (and some 3,000 species of fish), and 400 tribes. Waters from 31 states drain into the sprawling Mississippi, where northern headwaters are locked in snow and ice for much of the year. The river is intertwined with the legend, lore, and history of a young American nation, and is a source of jobs and economic power for much of its length, finally emptying into the Gulf of Mexico, far from its frigid source. While Rivers of Life obviously would have benefited from more detail on threats from commercial development and climate change, the series does offer interesting history coupled with rare and enticing views. Recommended. Aud: H, C, P. (S. Rees)