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‘Barge’ film explores life on Miss. River

At the busy New Orleans Riverwalk, tourists take in the size and scope of the Mississippi River as immense ships travel one of the world’s busiest ports. Naval and Coast Guard ships navigate past tows and tugs. Blue-water and brown-water crews eye each other cautiously, and an old steamboat is visible in the distance.

So opens a Mississippi filmmaker’s work in progress called “BARGE.” Cleveland native Ben Powell has returned home to document the swarthy characters who run Mississippi River boat traffic with all its dangers. The film also addresses the river trade industry’s growing shortage of workers and shrinking river communities.

As Captain Chuck Dean of Tunica says: “There’s no new blood coming to replace the old pilots who are retiring and dying.”

Powell earned his film degree from the Rhode Island School of Design and now lives primarily in Austin, Texas. He feels his Mississippi roots make him the ideal candidate to film this project, which won a production grant from the Texas Filmmakers’ Production Fund this year.

“Growing up in the Mississippi Delta, I have always had a fascination with working class Southern cultures … The trust and confidence myself and the crew have earned allow audiences to share a deeper relationship with the film’s themes of struggle and change,” he said.

Ben Powell (right) is director of 'BARGE.'

The Mighty Mississippi has always played a vital role in the way American goods are delivered.

Mississippi Film Office Deputy Director, Nina Parikh, said: “BARGE is a wonderful opportunity to capture an American, Southern and Mississippi experience that has been vital to the growth of our nation and communities.”

Powell is in the process of further fundraising for the project. Those interested in providing support may visit http://bargemovie.com/support/.

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