WATERVILLE — When Brian Eustis and Hutch Brown worked together in the mid-1990s as raft guides, they couldn’t have guessed where their burgeoning skills would take them.

In 2004, Eustis and Brown collaborated on the film “Mekong: Exploring the Mother of Waters,” a documentary of an Australian man’s 2,800-mile voyage from the headwaters of the Mekong River in Tibet to its outlet into the Sea of China in Vietnam.

Both Brown, 43, and Eustis, 35, have strong ties to Maine. Brown grew up in Harrison and now lives on Peaks Island. Eustis is a Waterville native who now lives in Portland, Ore. He graduated from Waterville Senior High School in 1995. His parents, Jon and Paula Eustis, run Joseph’s Sporting Goods in Fairfield.

Eustis, who served as principal cinematographer for the film, developed his filming skills while rafting in Maine.

“In the rafting industry, there’s always a guy who films the trip then sells you a tape at the end of the day,” he said. “That was me.”

Those photographic skills transferred well to kayaking, and those combined skills opened up opportunities, Eustis said.


“It’s kind of a niche, being able to kayak and film,” he said. “There’s a lot of better filmers, and there’s a lot of better kayakers, but not as many people can film and kayak.”

Eustis soon found work filming from kayaks in Bolivia, Costa Rica, Papua New Guinea and Southeast Asia.

In 2004, Eustis was contacted by someone he’d met while filming a TV show in Laos.

Mick O’Shea, an Australian, was in the process of becoming the first known person to kayak the entire length of the Mekong River. But, soon after arriving at the headwaters, the film crew that O’Shea brought to document the voyage quit. Eustis was offered the job.

Eustis joined O’Shea in southern Tibet. Soon after, they realized they needed a third person for the project.

Eustis called Brown, and Brown met the two on the border area of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar (formerly Burma) to serve as assistant cinematographer and still photographer.


“And we continued on to Vietnam,” Eustis said.

For about four months, Eustis said he experienced a changing continent from the cockpit of his kayak.

“To see the history, the culture and the geography from incredible Himalaya gorges all the way down to the rice paddies and the delta in Vietnam, and everything in between, was spectacular,” he said.

But, the region is threatened, Brown said.

“China is building giant hydroelectric dams, and Laos and Cambodia have decided to build dams,” Brown said. “The countries downstream depend on the Mekong for sustenance, for everything.”

Dams may interrupt natural flooding cycles that are crucial to farming and fishing, he said. Upstream, in China, millions of people have been displaced by government officials in advance of the rising dam waters.


Brown said he hopes the two events in Waterville will raise awareness.

Ben McCanna — 861-9239




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