ALTON (AP) - A modern Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn tackled the Mighty Mississippi last summer and turned their adventure into a movie.
Kayakers, filmmakers and actors Ryan Jeanes, 33, of Austin, Texas, and Phillip Hullquist, 26, of Nashville, Tenn., paddled the entire length of the Mississippi River, starting on the second day of summer, June 22, 2009, at Lake Itasca in Minnesota, and ended at the Gulf of Mexico on Oct. 3 of that year. They filmed every moment of their 2,300-mile excursion, with the exception of when they paddled for their life.
Now, the pair will present their 90-minute adventure documentary, "The River Is Life,'' at 7 p.m. Thursday at Alton's Riverfront Park amphitheater for free on the banks of Old Man River.
"You'll see a movie that focuses on the people we met along the way who were sometimes wild and crazy, sometimes quirky and always interesting. You will see some quite amazing shots,'' said Jeanes, who personally will visit Alton along with Hullquist on the day the movie is shown. "It's about how two guys went on a modern-day Huck Finn odyssey. It's an all-encompassing view of America and who we are as a people through the lens of a trip down the Mississippi River.''
The pair began calling convention and visitor bureaus, chambers of commerce and park and recreation departments of cities and towns they passed along the river's banks. They reached Alton Park and Recreation Department Executive Director Brad Cunningham about showing the movie here, and Cunningham helped arrange a date after Jeanes and Hullquist started booking at the beginning of the year. The two especially wanted the movie shown outdoors and by the Mississippi River if possible.
"We try to make it look how it felt, so that you literally physically feel the river by being near it,'' Jeanes explained. "You actually do get a feel of what it's like to actually paddle the length of the Mississippi River.''
The movie also contains action-packed sequences when the pair paddled in their inflatable kayaks through choppy water on the north-to-south journey.
"There was plenty of choppy water and dangerous moments,'' Jeanes recalled. "In fact, there was a point I was too (frantic) paddling for my life to film; past the (St. Louis) Arch to the (Jefferson Barracks Bridge), it can be really dicey.''
He recalled another stretch in southern Louisiana called "Suicide Alley'' that they were able to film.
"It's a place where literally there is nowhere to stop, and ocean-going ships use this,'' he said. "A lot of paddlers skip it, but being filmmakers, we did it.''
The movie also provides comic relief.
"We actually get quite a few laughs from the zaniness that's going on,'' Jeanes said. "It's a very comical, fun look at the river.''
Jeanes and Hullquist are the sole driving force behind the production. They set up, tear down and provide concessions for the showings.
The two met in South Padre Island, Texas, and ended up making "The Hitchhiking Movie,'' in which they filmed their way hitchhiking across the United States in 2007. The movie showed in the film festival circuit but not much outside of the industry.
"We just really wanted to show this movie to the people who would enjoy it most,'' Jeanes said.
Hullquist has an associate's degree in film editing, and Jeanes has done some acting, making him very comfortable on camera, he said.