#249) Study of a River (1997)


#249) Study of a River (1997)

OR “Hutton on the Hudson”

Directed by Peter Hutton

Class of 2010

The Plot: Independent filmmaker Peter Hutton takes a look at the famous Hudson River in this silent short. Filmed over the course of two years, Hutton observes all 315 miles of this landmark during and immediately after winter has placed ice all over the river.

Why It Matters: The NFR praises the work of Peter Hutton as “thoughtful and beautifully photographed” while also comparing his work to those of painter Thomas Cole. There’s also a very academic essay by the very academic Claudia Costa Pederson.

But Does It Really?: As representation of Peter Hutton’s filmography, this gets a pass. But how many more of these “staring at water” shorts are there on the list? Between this, “13 Lakes” and “H2O”, the NFR really likes their long, artistic shots of water. I’m beginning to think that this three-hour loop of a beach will make the cut eventually.

Everybody Gets One: Not a lot of info on Peter Hutton, other than he was also a painter, a sculptor, and at one time a seaman (possibly in the Marines). His other short films include such titles as “Time and Tide”, “Looking at the Sea”, and “Two Rivers”. I guess you could say all his movies tread the same water. Thank you!

Seriously, Oscars?: No nomination for “Study of a River” or any of Peter Hutton’s work. The film did, however, win the “Most Overlooked Short Film Award” at the 1997 Oberhausen International Short Film Festival, though I feel that winning that award automatically disqualifies you from being “overlooked”. For the curious, the 1997 winner of Best Documentary Short was “A Story of Healing”, a film about volunteer nurses at the Mekong delta in Vietnam. At least the Academy was interested in a body of water that year.

Other notes

  • The Hudson has gone by many names over time. The Iroquois called it Cahohatatea (“the river”), the Mohicans Muhhekunnetuk (“river that flows two ways”), but of course, we named it after the English guy who got lost while trying to find the Northwest Passage.
  • What music should go over silent footage of an ice flow? I don’t know why, but Oasis seems like a good fit.
  • 1997 was a good year for movies about big ships navigating ice-covered water. That’s a fun Netflix subgenre.


  • Peter Hutton passed away in 2016, but his film legacy is being preserved not only at the Library of Congress, but also at his home base of Canyon Cinema.
  • I’ll just assume Hutton’s “Two Rivers” was meant to be a sequel to “Study of a River”.
  • As for the Hudson River, the most exciting thing to happen to it in recent years was when that 747 made an emergency landing. They even made a movie about it!

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