SXSW FILM 2014
By Don Simpson | March 12, 2014
Directors: Paul Collins, Anlo Sepulveda
With over 200 springs bubbling up from the Edwards Aquifer, the headwaters of Texas’s San Marcos River has been inhabited by humans for over 10,000 years. With Yakona, directors Paul Collins and Anlo Sepulveda provide the river with an opportunity to communicate its memories to us, continuously reminding us of the longstanding battles that human beings have had against nature.
Utilizing an astonishingly visual documentary filmmaking technique that is sure to solicit comparisons with films such as Koyaanisqatsi and Baraka, Yakona is told almost entirely nonverbally; the essence is derived solely by means of the editing. Harkening back to Sergei Eisenstein’s theories of of montage, Collins and Sepulveda establish the documentary’s meaning and purpose by linking sequential images together. In other words, by cutting from one image to another, they establish an intentional association between those two images. Many of these linkages are subtle enough for the audience to derive their own interpretations, but Collins and Sepulveda are certain to intersperse enough flagrant juxtapositions to make sure that we stay with the flow of their message.
Their point is for us mere mortals to contemplate our relationship with the natural world. Starting with the Clovis people, Yakona progresses along to the Coahuiltecan people who were eventually eradicated by early Anglo settlers; then, before the San Marcos River knew it, Texas State University and the Aquarena Center were attracting far more people to the area. As we know, history often repeats itself, and that is something Collins and Sepulveda cleverly accentuate by crosscutting between the near present and the war-torn days of the Coahuiltecan people. It comes as no surprise that San Marcos’ modern day activities are far less civilized than that of the Coahuiltecan people. It is a college town after all.
The end goal of Yakona is to inspire the audience to protect places like the San Marcos River, not only because of its natural beauty but also because of its history. Through Collins and Sepulveda’s lens, the San Marcos River can be filled with wondrous and magical beauty, if it is left to its own devices. For that to be the case, however, humans must become more mindful of the impact that their noises, lights and pollution have on nature. Yes, swimming, tubing and canoeing are all a lot of fun, but that is only because we are not thinking about the natural elements that we are disturbing (if not killing) — and nature has been here far longer than us. After you see the magnificent underwater images captured throughout Yakona, you will probably think twice before disturbing the Eden-esque beauty of the San Marcos River.