It’s the longest river in Canada covering around 1.8 million square kilometres in three provinces and territories, and many Canadians have never heard of it.

The Mackenzie River is the central player in the new short documentary Cold Amazon, which will be released during Canada Water Week from March 17 to 23. The film highlights the river’s importance and how its water affects many Canadians, including Canada’s environment, economy and culture. Canadian Geographic asked filmmaker and writer Tim Querengesser to discuss the documentary.

Q: Why is the Mackenzie River important?

A: It has a refrigerating influence that shapes the climate of the rest of the country. This river is of high importance not just for the people who live along it, but everyone. Here’s a river most people don’t know anything about, but it affects them.

Q: Why did you make the Mackenzie River the centre of your narrative?

A: I travelled from Tulita, N.W.T. along the river for four days and I was taken by its magnitude. It’s a continental vein running toward the Arctic Ocean. Living in the north, eventually you come to see the centrality of the Mackenzie River. I wanted to tell the story of the river and the people who live along it.

Q: Why did you feel this story needed to be told?

A: When I moved to Edmonton, I heard a lot of people talking about water, but not about the Mackenzie River. I wanted to raise awareness of the connection between Albertan waters and that river. I feel like there’s a lot of “us and them” talk with people in the south and north, but we are actually quite connected.

Q: Why did you focus on territorial government policy surrounding the protection and stewardships of the river?

A: I was trying to explain it to a viewer who doesn’t know that the Northwest Territories government has an interest in protecting water. It’s not an endorsement of the policy, but the policy is very different.