The one hour documentary River of Sand premiered on Vision TV on October 23, 1998. 

River of Sand was screened as part of the 2000 Environmental Film Festival in Washington, DC.

River of Sand won the Regard Canadien award for best documentary  at the  Vues d'Afrique Film Festival in Montréal. It was also invited for competition at the International Festival of Environmental Films in Paris, France. 

(To download high quality pictures in TIF format suitable for publication click here.)

River of Sand is a heartfelt evocation of the music, culture and people of Mali, West Africa, as seen through the eyes of acclaimed singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn. As on-camera host and commentator, Bruce traverses the desert, jams with stars of the Malian music scene, and brings us a closeup, personal look at a people who are fighting hard to hold back the encroaching desert.

 During the filming in March 1998 this website was INTERACTIVE - that is, people could ask questions on this website and the film team would answer them every day (using a satellite phone). Click on the items in the menubar on the left for journal entries and answers from the film team (featuring RealAudio interviews with Bruce Cockburn).

 For a quick synopsis of why we did this film and what happened on the shoot... read on!

 In October 1997 we went to Douentza in the West African country of Mali to scout a film project. Because October is near the end of the rainy season, we expected to see the annual harvest. Instead... we found drought.


We found farmland turning to dust. We watched the buses fill up every day with people heading south to escape the encroaching desert. But not everyone was leaving. We saw many people working hard to secure their future in their own homeland - remaining hopeful and (somehow) even happy despite the crisis. 
From February 7 to March 2, in the middle of the dry season, when the desert winds blow off the Sahara, our film team went back to Mali to make a one hour documentary film. We explored the country and found out more about the people - their ancient cultures, their music and their struggle with the spreading desert. 
We traveled from the bustling capital of Bamako down the Niger River north to the legendary desert city of Timbuktu, south-east to the Douentza district and the home of the Dogon people, and west to the ancient cliff dwellings of Sanga.

 From February 7 to March 2, 1998 this site became INTERACTIVE. People signed up to email questions to our documentary team (including our film's host: singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn). 

Using a satellite link our film team updated this website every day with new information and answers to questions. The people we met; what we saw... it's all in our daily journals

By way of this web site we took many on our journey to the heart of West Africa. (In one month 153 people asked questions and about 6000 people visited the site.) 

Although the major INTERACTIVE mission of this site is over... we are pleased to announce something new: film sponsor USC Canada has launched a new interactive website where you can ask questions and get answers from development workers all over the world. You'll find this site at

Please refer to the Broadcast Schedule for upcoming broadcast dates.


Click here for images of Mali 

Click here for sample RealVideo from Mali 

(If you click the button and nothing happens please install a "Real Audio" player so you can listen to music and watch video on the web with NO WAITING! Click here to get it for free!)

"River of Sand" was broadcast on Vision TV in the fall of 1998 and on TV Ontario and SCN in the spring of 1999. Look for another airing on SCN early in 2000!

 The program was funded in part by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and USC Canada (Unitarian Service Committee of Canada). To find out more about these agencies click on the links below.