Environmentalist David Brower and the fight to save
By Gretchen Giles
Imagine the entire swath of the Pt.
Reyes National Seashore as little more than a rich folks'
resort of luxury seafront homes and shudder. Picture water-skiing
right down the ruined alleyways of the Grand
Canyon with thousands of others. See the Yosemite
Valley criss-crossed with cement and streaming with smoking
ribbons of cars in all directions. Wonder what Glen
Canyon must have looked like.
Dammed by the Army Corps of engineers in 1956 to better hold
Colorado River water for the thirsty state of Arizona, the Glen
had ancient native hieroglyphs etched into its walls, deep green
fens flourishing in its tall shade and was, the late environmental
activist David Brower once declared, the
most beautiful place he'd ever seen.
Generations have multiplied since the Glen met a watery
grave; generations have lost something elemental to the earth.
David Brower vowed that this wouldn't happen again.
The leader who catalyzed the Sierra Club in 1952, becoming
its executive director and changing its nature from that of a
hiking enthusiast's gathering to a major political force, ushering
in what we now call the environomental movement, the Berkeley-born
Brower--who died in 2000 at the age of 88--is brought back to
the ferocity of life in a new documentary, Monumental:
David Brower's Fight for Wild America, screening as part
of the Wine Country Film Festival.
Cannily using footage Brower himself took of trips through
Yosemite and other of his most beloved places, Monumental
most passionately describes the fights Brower lead to save the
Grand Canyon from additional damming; the quest to make Pt. Reyes
into the protected spot it is today (Ladybird Johnson in pill
box hat and heels standing near the surf, breathing in deep admiration);
and the creation of the Redwood National Park on the high North
Coast, protecting the oldest living things on earth.
Brower, the father of four, was perhaps not the easiest man
to get along with, and his crusty side is ably shown in Monumental.
But he brooked no cowardice and bore no compromises. His split
with the Sierra Club in 1969 over their willingness to compromise
over the Central Coast's Nipomo Dunes, some of the most pristine
sand hills in North America.
While Monumental never explores those aspects of Brower
that earned him the "Arch Druid"
nickname, what this documentary does do splendidly is to underscore
how just one man, a handful of people and a pokey little organization
for hikers and bird watchers can indeed change the entire face
of a nation by simply not allowing it to change.
'Monumental: David Brower's Fight for Wild America' screens
on Sunday, Aug. 8, as part of the Wine Country Film Festival.
Filmmaker Kelly Duane and Brower's son Ken, an activist in his
own right, will discuss the film and Brower's legacy following
the screening. Sebastiani Theater, on the Plaza, Sonoma. 3pm.
People are saying about the Movie
"No individual contributed
more to the effort to protect wilderness
in America than David Brower, and no film captures the contours
and passion of that transforming effort better than Monumental.
Duane's film has a freshness and originality that sets it apart
from the historical documentaries that have come to dominate
-- J. Stine, Smithsonian
" Calling David Brower an important
environmental activist is like calling Hamlet an important member
of the Danish royal court. Brower invented modern American
environmental activism. This film tells you how and why."
--John Nielsen, NPR
"In addition to its unique documentary
resources, the movie should be an invaluable historical primer
for anyone who aspires to influence government policy, not to
mention the government officials obliged to evaluate that influence."
-- Gary Arnold, Washington
May 27th-31st, 2004, Telluride, CO
Telluride Mountain Film Festival
June 17-27th, 2004, Los Angeles, CA
The Los Angeles Film Festival
Fri. June 18, 9:45pm, Laemmle Sunset 5
Sun. June 20, 3:00pm, Laemmle Sunset 5
July 30th, 2004, Hyannas Port, MA
August 1 & 2nd, Woods Hole, Cape
Woods Hole Film Festival
August 7th & 8th, Sonoma/Napa, CA
Wine Country Film Festival
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