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Film director shares insights into environmental movement

Monday, February 2, 2015

If you’ve ever marveled at the natural beauty of one of America’s National Seashores, you have a group of ordinary folks in Northern California to thank.

Rebels With a Cause tells the story of a local effort by ordinary citizens in California that grew into a national movement to preserve open spaces. This award-winning documentary, an offering of the On Screen/In Person film series, will screen on Friday, Feb. 13, at 7:30 p.m. in the Taylor Little Theatre.

In the 1950s, unconvinced by land developers who promoted residential construction as unmitigated progress, a group of volunteers in the San Francisco Bay Area saved a large stretch of coastline north of the Golden Gate Bridge for parks and farms. The efforts of these garden clubs, ranchers, farmers, conservationists, politicians and widows set new precedents for protecting open spaces near where people live, taking the fight to preserve public land all the way to the White House. Their actions – marked by compromise and crossing party lines – helped shape the environmental movement as we know it today.

Rebels With a Cause is a beautifully rendered documentary that includes stunning cinematic footage of America’s National Seashores and compelling stories and interviews with former Secretary of the Interior Steward Udall, conservationist and Presidential Medal of Freedom winner Edgar Wayburn, Trust for Public Land co-founder Huey Johnson and dozens of other environmental leaders. Academy Award-winning actress Frances McDormand narrates the film.

Following the screening, the Mercyhurst Institute for Arts & Culture will host a panel discussion on the film and environmental protection with Rebels With a Cause director Nancy Kelly and environmental advocates from Environment Erie. Kelly, known for such films as Smitten, Downside Up and award-winning documentary shorts Cowgirls and Sweeping Ocean Views, has been making independent fiction and non-fiction films for more than 25 years.

The On Screen/In Person film series is presented with support from the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation. For more information on Rebels With a Cause, visit Tickets for the screening are $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and students, and $1 for Mercyhurst students with ID. Tickets can be purchased by calling 814-824-3000 or by visiting