By: Follow South Jersey Staff
CHERRY HILL, N.J. — The documentary, “Search for the Cooper; A River Hidden in Plain View,” which chronicles the expedition taken by four local youths in June 2022 to unlock the hidden beauty and find the Cooper River in Camden County has won the Best of Film Award at the Ocean City Maryland Film Festival.
Camden County Parks Director Maggie McCann lead the excursion alongside a film crew and Anand Varma, a National Geographic explorer photographer who documented the trip. Together, the group kayaked, bushwacked and hiked through the dense overgrowth, debris and challenging terrain, ultimately traveling 17 miles up on a journey to discover the source of Cooper River while campaigning to preserve and reclaim the area’s natural beauty. The film was produced by Sandy Cannon Brown with videography by Dave Harp.
Camden County Commissioner Jeff Nash, who serves as liaison to the Parks Department, said that the film can help reconnect communities to their natural environment.
“This film shows the highs and the lows this group experienced over the course of their six-day journey across more than 10 municipalities here in Camden County,” Nash said. “The main goal of the expedition was to find the source of the river of course but as time went on, it has transcended into so much more. It served as a healing opportunity for communities in Camden to reconnect with this area’s natural landscapes that have long been exploited and neglected. This film is specifically about the Cooper River, but I think it can really apply to any urban river that has been forgotten about.”
In addition to its Best of Film Award, “Search for the Cooper” will also be screening at several upcoming film festivals and on television nationwide.
“Our local waterways are truly invaluable resources, especial in urban areas like Camden ,” said Camden Mayor Victor Carstarphen. “The film gives great insight into the journey of these Camden youth as they explore the Cooper River. It has always been right here but unfortunately many have taken it for granted. The celebrated film has raised awareness for the beautiful landscapes which surrounds us and the importance of conservation our natural resources.
On Saturday, March 18, the film will screen at the DC Environmental Film Festival at 12:30 p.m. Following the screening, McCann and the youth explorers will participate in a panel discussing their trip and the importance of preserving natural spaces.
Jermaine Brown-Gourdine, who was one of the four youths to participate in the expedition, discussed the impact the trip and the documentary have had on him.
“This is very personal for me, my family never thought about water until they saw the film,” Brown-Gourdine said. “It raised their awareness about water, how they use it, where it goes and how to care for our rivers.”
The film will also be shown at the Garden State Film Festival in Asbury Park on March 23 at 12 p.m.
The Upstream Alliance is a nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting people with nature. The organization partnered with Camden County to make the expedition possible.
“We’re overjoyed that this film is gaining national recognition. It is a depicts the chronicles of the four Camden teens rediscovering New Jersey’s Cooper River, which to many was little more than an urban drain choked with discarded shopping carts and rusting bicycles,” said Don Baugh, president of the Upstream Alliance. “They uncovered a magical natural gem right in their backyard and the film hammers home the importance of defending natural spaces, whether they’re urban or rural.”
The film is set to air on Maryland Public Television from April 16 to April 22 and will be put on their national feed, which makes it available for other public television stations nationwide to air.
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