Starting March 14, movie-goers in select U.S. cities can don 3D glasses and get a small taste of what it's like to float between the Grand Canyon's towering red walls, row a dory through its silty waters, and punch the wave at Lava Falls. MacGillivray Freeman Films’ Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk 3D chronicles a river trip that begins like most others: with families and friends gathering on the beach at Lee’s Ferry, and a pile of gear.
The similarities end there. Included in that pile of gear was a 350-pound IMAX 3D camera, which captures separate images for the left and right eye on two strips of 15/70 mm film, an effect that, along with the curved 3D screens in IMAX theaters, literally makes viewers feel they are inside the film.
Trip members include Waterkeeper Alliance founder Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., anthropologist/author Wade Davis, and their daughters, Kick Kennedy and Tara Davis. National Park Service Ranger native Havasupai Shana Watahomigie joins the trip as one of the guides.
The Teva-sponsored IMAX 3D documentary highlights water issues
Robert Redford narrates as the rafts, kayaks, and dories tackle the Colorado River rapids, and the expedition members explore side canyons and Anasazi ruins. The film touches on environmental issues surrounding the Glen Canyon and Hoover dams, the invasion of non-native species like the tamarisk tree, and the severe drought that is predicted to continue to plague the American Southwest for years to come. The film then follows the Colorado River from its source in the Rocky Mountains to the now dry, cracked surface of its delta at the Sea of Cortez in Mexico. The end of the film features tips on how average citizens can pitch in to conserve water, like installing low-flow showerheads or high efficiency toilets, or simply turning the water off while brushing teeth.
“The Grand Canyon is simply the perfect environment for 3D,” says producer/director Greg MacGillivray. "You already have a spectacular landscape in three planes–the boats, the river's edge and the epic background of the canyon's rim a mile away–and then you have the rapids on top of that which we knew would be really exciting in three dimensions."
MacGillivray’s comments about sum it up. The Grand Canyon, especially as seen from a boat, maximizes the potential of 3D film. From the splashy, water-droplets-in-your-face opening sequence to the sweeping red rock vistas, viewers can get a feel for the up and down motion of riding in the bow of a dory or what it’s like to stare down the wave train at Lava Falls from behind the oars. Though the script gets a little muddled with father/daughter sentiment, it touches an important issue that the film will hopefully thrust more into the public eye—water management in the Southwest.
The footage was captured with special permission from the National Park Service, which rarely allows filming on the main portion of the river; the movie's executives also worked closely with native Navajo, Havasupai, and Hualapai tribes to assure they had proper permission to shoot on their lands.