Behind the Scenes: Nile – The ultimate River

Austrian director Harald Pokieser spent two years on the banks of the Nile – the result is an awe-inspiring, three-part documentary of the world’s “ultimate” river.

A journey downriver

Adventures along the longest river in the world: a trip into a region of extreme contrasts, including close shaves with soldiers and encounters with animals that had never been filmed before.

It took more than two years to create a comprehensive picture of this vast river – 6,650 kilometres of water stretch between its sources in the forests of Rwanda and its estuary on the Mediterranean coast. Between them lie landscapes of great diversity, from the deserts of Egypt to the Sudd swamp in South Sudan. “The contrasts on the Nile are unique“, says filmmaker Harald Pokieser. “It seems as if you have barely escaped the traffic jams of Cairo when suddenly you are gliding in a boat through a tropical storm in Uganda.“

The Austrian director and his team reached the Rwenzori Mountains, where the thousand tributaries of the Nile arise, but they also got into a sweat there. “The Rwenzori Mountains are a wonder, a land from before our age. There is an incredible profusion of plants in the rainforests – you think a dinosaur will come round the corner any minute,“ says Pokieser. “At the same time we had some anxious moments, one of which was when my co-director Clare Dornan, cameraman Jan Haft and the team were caught in a forest fire. It wasn’t until hours later that we heard for certain that everyone had escaped the flames.“

The shots of the unique animal world of the Nile in South Sudan also came at a price. On two occasions, the director and his team were arrested by members of the military – such problems are common in the world’s youngest state, which is dogged by crises. Shortly after the team were released, the South Sudan government decided to close the country’s borders.

Despite the struggles, the persistent filmmaker is still thoroughly enthusiastic about the trip: “It was the most adventurous and best film project I have ever done. I’ve never seen so much undisturbed wilderness or felt the heartbeat of ancient Africa as we did in the Sudd.“

Diverse, uniquely beautiful, but above all mysterious, the “ultimate river“ reveals itself on film – along with a sensational event: an African wolf, never filmed before, runs into the camera shot, proof once more of the celebrated diversity of Africa.

Director and team on the adventurous hunt for images. Impressions of the Nile.


Find more information about the breath-taking three-part documentary ‘Nile – The ultimate River’ by following this link, where trailer, images and additional information are available.

This article was also published in Terra Mater magazine 14/03.