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Rebels With a Cause: The Story of The National Movement to Preserve Open Spaces

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'Rebels With a Cause' is a story about activists who, despite diversions and disappointments, persist in their mission for more than twenty years. The activists aim to foster a national movement to preserve open spaces. They also want to shape the environmental movement of today.

The story is narrated by Academy Award winning actress Frances McDormand

The activists began their bid to protect lands adjacent to urban areas from San Francisco's rampant development to preserve them for public recreation in the 1950's.

They started with a small group of citizens in Northern California.

The Rebels With a Cause were dreamers and schemers who wanted to stop wealthy developers from taking over breathtaking natural landscapes. The developers cared more about making money than preserving nature, and they didn't care if they destroyed it or anything related to it.

The rebels' early efforts didn't go well, but that changed when John F Kennedy was elected in 1960. Bill Duddleson, Legislative Assistant to then-Congressman Clem Miller says "that was when things began to move..."

"We drew up a petition which said only this: 'Dear Mr. President, only you can preserve this magnificent seashore for all generations of Americans, It's NOW or NEVER!" - Peter Behr, former California Senator.

The activists and the people they convinced used the "divide and conquer" method of making progress. Former Secretary of the Interior from 1961 to 1969, Stewart Udall said "After (Kennedy) appointed me Secretary of the Interior, he sent an Annual Conservation Message, and it included making Cape Cod a National Seashore." Udall said that after looking at Kennedy's proposal, he told JFK "it would be selfish to just make Cape Cod a National Seashore; let's have one on each coast! And we proposed Padre Island, Texas ... and Point Reyes."

That was the thin end of the wedge and the effort grew from there.

point reyes
Point Reyes, California, from "Rebels With A Cause"
Photo: Alan Majchrowicz

It was really a small grassroots effort that grew - like the mouse that roared. The small regional effort morphed into a legacy of National Seashores, National Parks and National Recreation Areas all around the nation. Garden clubs, ranchers, farmers, conservationists, politicians, widows and volunteers got involved. They worked towards their goals through compromise and negotiation. The winners were the American public.

The really great thing was that although politics were involved, it crossed party lines and united foes. It was not an easy path, and it falters along the way, more than once. In fact, it almost died out altogether.

As an American Public Television press release says, "Beautiful cinematic footage, clever animation, moving interviews and a very compelling story are deftly woven together in a tale that is especially meaningful for contemporary times."

Director: Nancy Kelly, Kelly & Yamamoto Productions

Producers: Nancy Kelly and Kenji Yamamoto, Kelly+Yamanto Productions

Executive Producer: Nancy Dobbs, KRCB North Bay Public Media Broadcast underwritten by Earth: EarthJustice. Because the Earth Needs A Good Lawyer. www.earthjustice.org.

Rebels With a Cause airs on American Public Television. For more information, visit www.APTonline.org

rebel filmmakers
"Rebels With A Cause" filmmakers

Kam Williams is a syndicated film and book critic who writes for 100+ publications. He is a member of the New York Film Critics Online, the African-American Film Critics Association, and the NAACP Image Awards Nominating Committee. Contact him through NewsBlaze. Read more reviews by Kam Williams.

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