Big River, a short playing Tuesday at the Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival, presents itself as a companion to King Corn, the disarmingly powerful documentary about a couple of Boston guys (Ian Cheney, Curt Ellis) who grow an acre of Iowa corn, then look at the various nutritional ills wrought by large-scale corn farming. The new film examines the disastrous environmental effects of pesticides.
Cheney and Ellis narrate, but there are moments when they just silently paddle a canoe or listen to experts. The men's silence is powerful. King Corn director Aaron Woolf didn't make Big River, but Ellis, behind the camera, successfully re-creates the earlier film's tone, which is calm, curious and, above all, quietly despairing.