A towboat drifts down the Mississippi River, on its way to the port of New Orleans. This is a barge whose life is the water, the banks, and the bright lights ahead. On board, dry land’s misfits find purpose and direction as the steady hands who move a few million tons of cargo up and down the river each year. A green deckhand; a former convict working his way up to first mate; an engineer with 38 years of experience, in no hurry to retire; and an ancient waterway pulling a double shift as the backbone of a national economy. As long as the boat is moving, they’re making money. Through the exquisitely observed details of modern river travel, this is a meditation on the importance of a meaningful job and the machinery of American ambitions. [language]
Director’s Statement: Ben Powell
So powerful is their contribution, we deem it inevitable. From the dry side of the levee, it is easier to forget the cooks, captains, engineers, and deckhands that make this river hum. Men and women defined by the water running underneath, and the incalculable ingenuity and perseverance required to master this great force of nature. The grain carried from Rosedale to the Port of New Orleans on a Mississippi towboat does not belong to its crew — but it is their ongoing mission to bring this grain where it is most wanted. Likewise, these are not my stories to tell. These stories are told by the men working the towboats, the Mary Parker and the Napoleon. Pride, passion, scars. A sense of humor. This is how these stories are told. This is how I deliver them to port.