For the Love of the Land: An Interview with Nancy Kelly

April 05, 2013   |   posted in Filmmakers


Nancy Kelly and Kenji Yamamoto have had several films screen at the Cleveland International Film Festival--“Downside Up” played at the 28th CIFF and “Trust: Second Acts in Young Lives” played at the 35th CIFF. Their latest film, “Rebels with a Cause,” retells the story of a group of twentieth-century visionaries who fought to preserve the landscape of Point Reyes National Seashore, which is north of San Francisco.

CIFF: What inspired you to make “Rebels With a Cause?”
NK: In 2004, I was in a meeting with Nancy Dobbs, President and CEO of KRCB North Bay Public Media in California. She asked me if I’d be interested in making a documentary about saving the coast north of San Francisco, and I said immediately “yes.” Nancy was inspired by Martin Griffin’s book, Saving the Marin Sonoma Coast, and I had read John Hart’s San Francisco’s Wilderness Next Door. Both books are about ordinary people from all walks of life fighting to preserve open spaces and establish public parks near densely populated urban centers yearning for access to nature. It is a true David and Goliath story; these people were up against Gulf Oil and other behemoths.

Of course, my husband and filmmaking partner, Kenji Yamamoto, was not in that meeting and I really should not have said “Yes” so instantly. A person is supposed to include her partner in monumental decisions that lead to years of work and fundraising. But I simply love those lands—two national parks—an unbroken stretch of parkland that starts in San Francisco and stretches some 70 miles north. Kenji always laughs and says, “A few days later, over pillow talk, I learned I was making this film.”

CIFF: What was most challenging to you in the filmmaking process?
NK: The finished film has an epic arc, over which the viewer sees how saving the lands that became the Point Reyes National Seashore inspired saving other park lands, stopped Gulf Oil from creating a city of 30,000 one ridge away from the Golden Gate Bridge, inspired the creation of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and [preserved] farmland ... at the same time. Fundraising was hard; choosing days to shoot when the fog didn’t obliterate the landscape was hard. But honestly, helping prospective funders understand my vision of the whole interconnectedness and sweep of the story was impossible. Many people who turned down my requests for funding told me after seeing the finished documentary that they never understood what I was doing until they saw the whole thing put together.

CIFF: What type of changes do you hope “Rebels with a Cause” might inspire?
NK: I see it happening already. Communities [are] starting to fight to save land. [Others], in the midst of fighting and feeling tired, are asking to screen the film in their communities to inspire them, help them [to] see how fighting for what a community wants is done, how it is not easy and how hanging in there sometimes works.

—Interview by Bridget Kriner
Photo: Kenji Yamamoto and Nancy Kelly. Photo by Janet Macoska.

PDF  Download Related PDF [1.6 MB]

Related Screenings:
04/04/13 @ 2:30 PM – Rebels with a Cause
04/05/13 @ 7:15 PM – Rebels with a Cause
04/06/13 @ 12:10 PM – Rebels with a Cause

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