Drifting Towards the Crescent

Documentary maker Laura Stewart delivers a pleasant, occasionally lyrical travelogue about two towns along the Mississippi River: Keokuk, Iowa, and Hannibal, Missouri. Both towns flourished during the 19th century, but today they’re underpopulated and largely dilapidated; the local economies have dried up and the architecture has fallen into disrepair. Despite this sad state of affairs, Stewart offers affectionate portraits of the townspeople, among them an exotic dancer, a hunting enthusiast, and an underemployed man who likes to pick morels along the river. They seem to carry on the old-time spirit of the river towns, and historical vignettes reveal how rowdy and fascinating such towns were during the era of Hannibal’s most famous son, Mark Twain.