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Jonathan Cohrs documentary on the Meadowlands Back Water premieres this Friday, February 12 at the Spring 2016 New Jersey Film Festival

By Al Nigrin

Jonathan Cohrs documentary on the Meadowlands Back Water premieres this Friday, February 12 at the Spring 2016 New Jersey Film Festival

Here is an interview I did with Back Water Director Jonathan Cohrs:

Nigrin: Seven young people paddle through the “swamps of Jersey” -- the New Jersey Meadowlands -- for 10 days  in canoes in your exceptional documentary film Back Water. How did you come decide to make this film? How long did it take you to make it?

Cohrs: The film was inspired from researching at the artificial flavoring industry in Northern New Jersey. At one point, I was planing a kind of Marco Polo canoe trip to visit various spice/flavor factories. The idea eventually morphed into a film about recovering wilderness and spending 10 days canoeing and living in the Meadowlands. There were 3 separate canoe trips taken to research and shoot the film and it’s been about five years since that first trip!

Nigrin: Where the seven people friends of yours? How were they selected?

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Cohrs: The first trip was with a close friend of mine from growing up. The two of us covered a lot of territory pretty fast and made it well into Arthur Kill. The big trip was more complicated to schedule and we were looking for people to fill various roles for the trip, such as a cook, researcher, hunter, sound, etc. So it ended up being a random group of people from all sorts of connections, none of whom I knew well prior to the trip. Everyone played a specific part and by the end of the trip, we knew more about each other than anyone would care to admit.  By the end we were also an efficient team that pitch camp, cooked dinner, and took care of each other very effectively. It was a great crew who made the trip look much easier on film than it really was.

Nigrin: The New Jersey Film Festival jury found your film to be quite beautiful and tranquil. Have audiences felt the same way about your film?

Cohrs: For the most part people seem to enjoy the film. The QA’s always raising interesting conversations and questions.

Nigrin: Were there any memorable stories in getting the film finished or any other info about your film you can pass on to us?

Cohrs: Over the course of the film if you look closely you might notice that my left hand is getting paler and paler to point that my index finger turned purple once we finished the trip. I went to the hospital and they thought I had a blood clot in my heart and so they immediately checked me into the emergency room. I was put on all kinds of blood thinners, CAT scans, and blood tests. They never found the clot and over the course of a week the color in my finger returned. Did something toxic end up in an open sore on my hand or did a blood vessel collapse? The doctors could never figure out what happened, but whenever I go kayaking or swimming in the cold my finger turns white and subtly reminder of time spent in the Meadowlands.

More info on Back Water including the trailer can be seen here:


Two terrific films will be screened before Back Water. Here is more info on this screening:

Tiny Town - Howard Cook (Denver, Colorado)
 As an ice-cream man runs his rounds, in a place called Tiny Town, he narrowly escapes a disastrous train collision. When a giant doll emerges from the wreckage, bent on destroying his tiny town, he realizes that he alone can save the day. A wonderful short animation.  2015; 9 min.

The Shadow Forest - Andrzej Cichocki (Dolna Grupa, Poland) 

In this suspenseful and intriguing short film, a man, while hunting a wolf in a forest, is startled by the sound of guns firing. Suddenly, in an explosion of movement there are people running... and even the wolves are overwhelmed by a sense of impending danger. 2015; 14 min.

Back Water – Jonathan Cohrs (Brooklyn, New York) 
A strange landscape exists in the middle of New Jersey, made up of wetlands and wildlife migrations, garbage dumps and the ruins of industry, toxic waste sites and a river that tells the story of a civilization’s new frontier. That is what seven young people have chosen to paddle through for 10 days, in canoes... Their singular expedition, as romantic as it is political, is relayed in this exceptional documentary film. 2015; 74 min. With an introduction and Q+A session with Director Jonathan Cohrs! Co-sponsored by the Rutgers University Centers for Global Advancement and International Affairs (GAIA Centers) and the Rutgers University American Studies Department!

Friday, February 12, 2016 at 7:00 p.m.

Voorhees Hall #105/Rutgers University

71 Hamilton Street, New Brunswick, New Jersey

$12=General; $10=Students+Seniors; $9=Rutgers Film Co-op Friends

Information: (848) 932-8482;

Free Food courtesy of Jimmy Johns of New Brunswick will be given out prior to this screening of the New Jersey Film Festival!


originally published: 2016-02-09 12:12:36

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