River of Grass
January 11th, 2018

River of Grass [1995]

Please join Cultivate Cinema Circle and Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center as we showcase the debut features of some of today’s modern visionary filmmakers with a year-long series dubbed Women Direct. Kelly Reichardt’s River of Grass [1995] kicks things off with an introduction by Beyond Boundaries Film & Discussion Series curator Meg Knowles.

  • Screening Date: Thursday, January 11th, 2018 | 7:00pm
  • Venue: Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center
  • Specifications: 1995 / 81 minutes / English / Color
  • Director(s): Kelly Reichardt
  • Print: Supplied by Oscilloscope
  • Tickets: $8 general, $6 students & seniors, $5 members
  • Deal: We will be giving away two copies of Kelly Reichardt by Katherine Fusco & Nicole Seymour courtesy of University of Illinois Press.

Event Sponsors:

Venue Information:

341 Delaware Ave, Buffalo, NY 14202

TrailerSynopsisDirector BioLinks

Courtesy of press notes:

River of Grass, Kelly Reichardt’s darkly funny debut feature, brought the writer/director back to the setting of her adolescence, the suburban landscape of southern Florida, where she grew up with her detective father and narcotics agent mother. Shot on 16mm, the story follows the misadventures of disaffected house-wife “Cozy,” played by Lisa Bowman, and the aimless layabout “Lee,” played by up-andcomer Larry Fessenden, who also acted as a producer and the film’s editor. Described by Reichardt as “a road movie without the road, a love story without the love, and a crime story without the crime,” River of Grass introduces viewers to a director already in command of her craft and defining her signature style.

Thirty-year-old Cozy lives in the middle of nowhere. Her one-story house sits on a soggy acre in Florida’s Broward County — a nondescript stretch of land sandwiched between Miami and the Everglades that boasts a shopping mall every fifteen miles. Cozy’s a daydreamer of the highest order, endlessly fantasizing that some nice couple will drive up in a big station wagon and take her kids away, that she’ll start a new life.

Cozy’s Dad is a detective with the Dade County/Miami police department. Distracted and in his mid-fifties, Ryder spends his nights on the job and his days drinking gin in jazz clubs. Lately, he’s been drinking a bit more since he seems to have misplaced his gun (again) and has landed a stiff suspension until its recovery. Unfortunately for Ryder, an aimless, enigmatic loser named Lee Ray Harold has already found it.

Worlds collide when Cozy, following an uncontrollable urge to get out of the house, meets up with Lee who is packing his new toy (Ryder’s gun) and following his own uncontrollable urge — to drink. Cozy and Lee soon find themselves embarking on a night of serious beer drinking and backyard pool hopping, which is cut short when Cozy accidentally fires the gun and apparently kills one of Lee’s old high school teachers. Instead of taking their cue and hitting the road, like any good outlaw couple would, Cozy and Lee shack up in a Miami motel to try to figure out how to raise gas money for their escape.

What follows is an escapade of misdirection and wrong turns, while Cozy and Lee try to go on the lam and revel in what they consider the outlaw life — without ever getting it right. Lee botches a convenience store robbery, they try to sell an old record collection in the age of compact discs, they find themselves short a quarter for the highway toll as they attempt to leave town and, in the end, they find out that they didn’t even commit the crime they are running from.

What’s left is a love story without the love, a murder mystery without a murder and a road movie that never makes it onto the road. Kelly Reichardt’s debut feature is a quickwitted take on the classic B road movie. She describes her characters as “the lackluster outlaws of the TV generation who have plenty of renegade role models but not the wiles to live up to them.” Playing off the clichéd elements of the genre, River of Grass ultimately illustrates how real life just ain’t like it is in the movies.


This new 2K DCP (Digital Cinema Package) of River of Grass has been restored from the original 16mm negative elements. During the restoration process at labs in Los Angeles, an interpositive film element was made at Fotokem from the original A/B negatives. The interpositive was then scanned in 2K at Modern VideoFilm for digital restoration and color correction. Deluxe Audio Services, working from an approved print made from the original negative elements, transferred the optical track into digital files for the sound clean-up and restoration. Digital protection tape elements LTO5 and HDCAM SR, along with the interpositive preservation film element will be archived at UCLA in their state of the art facility for generations to come.

This restoration was made possible by our generous partners Sundance, UCLA Film and Television Archive, TIFF, and hundreds of Kickstarter backers.


  • Berlin International Film Festival – 1994
  • Sundance Film Festival – 1994
  • Independent Spirit Awards – 1996 – Nominee: Best First Feature, Best First Screenplay, Best Debut Performance & Someone to Watch Award

“I like working in a really private way. I mean, we got as far as a cut of [Old Joy] without speaking to any kind of lawyer or anything. We got into Sundance before we thought we should form a company. Aside from a lot of sound work and stuff still to go, it was all very private, and that’s a dream for me.”

Courtesy of press notes:

American landscapes and narratives of the road are themes that run throughout Kelly Reichardt’s five feature films: RIVER OF GRASS (Strand Releasing, 1994), OLD JOY (Kino International, 2006), WENDY AND LUCY (Oscilloscope Pictures, 2008), MEEK’S CUTOFF (Oscilloscope Pictures, 2010), and NIGHT MOVES (Cinedigm, 2013); and the short narrative ODE (1999).

Grants: United States Artists Fellowship, Guggenheim Fellowship, Anonymous Was a Woman Award, Renew Media Fellowship.

Screenings: Whitney Biennial (2012), Film Forum, Cannes Film Festival in “un certain regard,” Venice International Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Berlin International Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, International Film Festival Rotterdam, BFI London Film Festival.

Retrospectives: Anthology Film Archives, Pacific Film Archive, Museum of the Moving Image, Walker Art Center, American Cinematheque Los Angeles.

She has taught at School of Visual Arts, Columbia University, New York University, and is currently an artist-in-residence at Bard College.

RIVER OF GRASS marks the third collaboration between Kelly Reichardt and Oscilloscope. Previously Oscilloscope released WENDY AND LUCY and MEEK’S CUTOFF, both to great acclaim. Oscilloscope is looking forward to a fourth collaboration and will next be following Kelly wherever she may lead them (hopefully to the grocery store to get some snacks).


  • Owl (2019) (Short)
  • First Cow (2020)
  • Certain Women (2016)
  • Night Moves (2013)
  • Meek’s Cutoff (2010)
  • Travis (2009) (Video short)
  • Wendy and Lucy (2008)
  • Old Joy (2006)
  • Then a Year (2001) (Short)
  • Ode (1999)
  • River of Grass (1994)

Here is a curated selection of links shared on our Facebook page for additional insight/information:

  • 12/7/17 – “Kelly Reichardt might be the most important independent American filmmaker working right now. Over six features, she has built a body of work that stands in sharp contrast to the prefab stories and festival-friendly satisfactions of much of what passes for independent cinema today. Reichardt’s movies are immersive, even gripping, and they often reflect (albeit sometimes obliquely) the social and political issues of their day.” Bilge Ebiri, The Village Voicelink
  • 1/1/18 – “Reichardt defines River of Grass as, ‘a road movie without the road, a love story without the love, and a crime story without the crime.’ It’s also a window into what her career would become and a brave example of what female characters can be. Like the Everglades, River of Grass is a movie beautiful in its brazen strangeness.” Elena Sheppard, HelloGiggles – link
  • 1/4/18 – “Reconstructing the classic cinematic narrative of film, Kelly Reichardt presents everyday lives while actively questioning why we accept reality as it is.” Illnois Press – link
  • We’re giving away Kelly Reichardt (written by Katherine Fusco and Nicole Seymour) at our January 11, 2018 screening of River of Grass.
  • 1/5/18 – “Her movies, from River of Grass to Night Moves, are not mere idiosyncratic curiosities. Reichardt’s preoccupations are emphatically, though not exclusively, American ones: ennui in the land of sunshine; the juvenility-responsibility tradeoff; the monetary cost of freedom; the obdurate reality of westward expansion; the prohibitive cost of true radicalism and criminality. (Certain Women may add post-feminist struggle to the list.) She nests these concerns in an unobtrusive, tacit existentialism whereby people keep making the same missteps because they are, irreducibly and inexorably, human and quietly desperate. As mordantly Beckettian as that may sound, it marks Reichardt as an artist of her time. This unassumingly brilliant filmmaker illuminates the sense and flavor of this disconsolate epoch in all its unheroic vexation.” Jonathan Stevenson, Brooklyn Magazinelink
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