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Once Upon a River

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Based on the best-selling novel by Bonnie Jo Campbell, Once Upon A River is the story of Native American teenager Margo Crane in 1970s rural Michigan. After enduring a series of traumas and tragedies, Margo (newcomer Kenadi DelaCerna) sets out on an odyssey on the Stark River in search of her estranged mother. On the water, Margo encounters friends, foes, wonders, and dangers; navigating life on her own, she comes to understand her potential, all while healing the wounds of her past. Written and directed by Haroula Rose, this midwestern gothic Americana story is, in the words of Jane Smiley for The New York Times , “an excellent American parable about the consequences of our favorite ideal, freedom.”

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A film by Haroula Rose

2019 | Drama | 92 mins | USA

A traditional coming-of-age story, Once Upon a River nonetheless boasts a most unconventional heroine in Margo Crane (newcomer Kendi DelaCerna in a knockout performance), a 15-year-old girl being raised in a riverside cabin amid the wilderness of western Michigan by her Native American father, after her white mother has abandoned them. Margo is a prodigy with a rifle, an eagle-eyed huntress, who idolizes Annie Oakley, and a stoic loner who guardedly strives to prove herself in a community dominated by men. Her strong will carries her forward through a succession of horrifying events that compel her to leave home, and find her way through a series of encounters, as she goes in search of her mother. Rose adapted the film from the 2011 novel of the same name, written by Bonnie Jo Campbell.  “I really love that it’s about friendship and resilience in really difficult times but in a really unique way,” says Rose, an accomplished singer-songwriter with a string of short films to her name, and credits on such Sundance breakouts as Fruitvale Station, on which she was an associate producer. “She’s on an odyssey. It’s essentially a road movie, but in very particular circumstances, and she’s a girl becoming a woman among all these men but still kind of holding her own.”