Directed by Jacob Cartwright & Nick Jordan
Running time: 95 mins.
HDV, Colour & b/w

full credits

Between Two Rivers is a new documentary film about Cairo, Illinois, a historic town with a dark and troubled past, located at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, in the heartland of America.

“Cairo should have been the biggest city in the United States, but look at it!”

Filmed, edited and directed by artists Jacob Cartwright and Nick Jordan, Between Two Rivers offers a remarkable insight into a community struggling with severe economic, social and environmental pressures.

With lyrical and striking contrasts between the past and present, the film explores the multiple factors that have lead to city's rise and fall, from booming river-trade and juke-joints to mob-lynchings and race riots which tore apart the community. The city’s tumultuous past against the backdrop of the latest crisis to afflict the community: the record-breaking floods of spring 2011, when the rising Ohio and Mississippi rivers threatened to destroy the town, forcing an emergency evacuation.

Researched and filmed over a four-year period, the film combines original cinematography and candid interviews with archive footage, unseen for over 40 years, capturing the town at the height of explosive racial tensions in the late Sixties. In 1969 Cairo witnessed the last pitched battles of the American civil-rights movement, at a defining moment in the nation's history. Between Two Rivers illustrates the long-term impact of the violent civil unrest, economic boycotts, curfews and martial law that so deeply divided the community.

"This is Cairo, City of Hope."

From the vivid childhood recollections of a car salesman to the emotive music of a local soul guitarist, a broad range of individuals share their feelings, insights and experiences of life in Cairo. The residents' hope and resolve to keep their city alive is belied by a mix of nostalgia and fatalism, as Cairo’s once-thriving downtown district is gradually demolished and the population steadily declines.

“You find things here which you just don’t find anywhere else.”

Filmed on the surrounding levees, rivers, lakes and woodlands the documentary explores Cairo's relationship to the unique environment that encircles the town. The tip of southern Illinois is a biological midpoint of the USA; a region of natural diversity where numerous species and terrains meet at the limits of their northern and southern range.

At a time when national governments are reeling from the effects of a global financial crisis, Between Two Rivers reveals the stark effects of economic inequalities, environmental disasters and social injustice, as experienced by the people of one beleaguered town caught between two mighty rivers.

“There’s no place like Cairo.”