The most essential element to any art form is truth. The passion and sincerity of an artist’s emotional connection to a painting, song, or film transfers to those who bear witness to it. Director Stephen Ohl’s basis for White River Tales is loosely based on his own family. While fictionalized to some degree, his connection with the actual events which create the foundation for this film culminates in an intense journey for the audience. Both drama and thriller, the story places the audience (via the main character Ned Hope) in the quandary of how to conduct one’s self when you discover that you’ve lost a cherished family member due to the irresponsible actions of a close friend. White River Tales is as much an internal exploration of personal morality as a suspenseful mystery. Awards from the ITVFest, San Jose International Short Film Festival, and others testify to the recognition of this film and the talent of those who created it.
Ramsay Philips is thoroughly convincing as Ned Hope, still a young man in the late 1980’s with a wife and a child. Struggling as any young family does, Ned’s criminal past resurfaces when his mother is killed in an accident by one of his teenage friends (Tommy). Ned must decide if he still possesses a darker side or if this present day version of himself will maintain control. Ned’s wife Marianne (Halle Charlton of Ouija: Origin of Evil and David E. Kelley’s Harry’s Law) serves as his conscience and compass. A social worker whom he met while serving time, their relationship and unexpected pregnancy redirected Ned’s life. When Ned thinks about taking revenge on Tommy, she tries to convince him not to. Eventually, at the moment where he is about to kill him, Marianne is in his thoughts and what he might lose for this retribution.
Stephen Ohl credits cast and crew for their work manifesting his vision but confirms that it was producer Joachim Gautier who kept the momentum going. Award winning films like Raksha and others attest to the diversity of Gautier and his commitment. It’s a quality that was tempered early in the production of White River Tales as Joachim relates, “As a producer it sometimes feels that fate is testing you. Literally on the first day of shooting this film I had crew members that were not picked up, sudden unavailability to props which we needed, someone pulled out of the location agreement, a main cast member with a broken leg, conflict with the camera rental company who had gotten the credit card number wrong and thus refused gear, etc. To top it off , I was running around so busy that I hadn’t eaten and I ended up running into a glass door, smashing my nose, and bleeding all over the place…again, all on the first day! With this kind of immediate adversity, I knew we were committing to something very good.”
While amusing, Joachim’s tale also reflects the theme of White River Tales. This is a story which communicates that we are all the captains of our own destiny. Obstacles happen but we choose how we react to them and thereby steer the course of our lives towards tragedy or success. This idea is universal and yet often overlooked. It takes a film such as this to remind us once again.