Cairo features 19th century ornithologist John James Audubon’s tale of the six weeks he spent stranded at the frozen confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, in 1810. Today this is the location of Cairo, a town at the southernmost tip of Illinois. Wedged between the two rivers, and encircled by levees, the once prosperous Cairo is today a largely abandoned and derelict town. The film explores both manmade and natural environments along the frozen upper Mississippi, leading to a concluding segment where Audubon’s dramatic narrative of hardship is set against the desolation of Cairo’s historic commercial centre.

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