A Sense of Wonder
Rachel Carson's love for the natural world and her fight to defend it.
Directed by Christopher Monger
Produced by Karen Montogomery, Sense of Wonder Productions LLC
Executive Producer: Kaiulani Lee
Director of Photography: Haskell Wexler, ASC
Editor: Tamara M. Maloney
Sound: Rob Sylvan
Starring Kaiulani Lee as Rachel Carson
When pioneering environmentalist Rachel Carson published "Silent Spring" in 1962, the backlash from her critics thrust her into the center of a political maelstrom. Despite her private persona, her convictions about the risks posed by chemical pesticides forced her into the role of controversial public figure.
"This is the Rachel that I knew, brought to life with almost uncanny skill and understanding." Paul Brooks, Carson's editor and biographer
Using many of Miss Carson's own words, actress Kaiulani Lee embodies this extraordinary woman in a documentary style film which depicts Carson in the final year of her life. Struggling with cancer, Carson recounts with both humor and anger the attacks by the chemical industry, the government and the press as she focuses her limited energy to get her message to Congress and the American people.
Beautifully shot in HD by Academy Award®-winning cinematographer, Haskell Wexler, at Carson's cottage in Maine, the film is an intimate and poignant portrait of Carson's life as she emerges as America's most successful advocate for the natural world. Based on Kaiulani Lee's popular play of the same name.
This DVD includes many bonus features including LESSONS FROM CARSON, a 28-minute film directed by Ian Cheney (King Corn and The Greening of Southie), in which contemporary environmental leaders reflect on Carson's life and the challenges ahead -- featuring geneticist and "Nature of Things" host, Dr. David Suzuki; leading expert on the health effects of pollution Dr. Theo Colborn; "Last Child in the Woods" author, Richard Louv; the Center for Food Safety's Andrew Kimbrell; Jay Feldman of Beyond Pesticides; and NRDC co-founder and Dean of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Gus Speth.
Grade Level: Grades 7-12, College, Adult
US Release Date: 2009
Copyright Date: 2008
DVD ISBN: 1-59458-851-1
"Anyone who has not had the good fortune to see Kaiulani Lee perform her one woman Rachel Carson show can now have that experience in A Sense of Wonder. As someone who has written about Carson, I deeply admire Lee's capacity to evoke Carson largely through the eloquence of her words, but also by capturing her sensibility. I felt I was in Carson's presence. The DVD has the added benefit of setting Ms Lee/Carson in the cottage on Sheepscott Bay that meant more to Carson than any place on earth. Haskell Wexler makes the `sense of place' real and wondrous."
Mark Lytle, Professor of History and Environmental Studies, Bard College, Author, The Gentle Subversive: Rachel Carson, Silent Spring and the Rise of the Environmental Movement
"A Sense of Wonder reveals the incredibly appealing personality that lay beneath this environmental hero. Actress Kaiulani Lee embodies Carson's spirit as she recreates the author's last visit to her beloved Maine coast with her son. Against this stunning backdrop, Carson reflects on both her role in history and the role all humanity has played in transforming the environment. Rachel Carson's humanity, humor and intelligence are brought to life as she walks the viewer through her personal struggles and environmental battles. Historically accurate and true to Carson's words, this beautifully shot film is a thoughtful exploration of Carson's life, books, and legacy."
Mark Madison, Historian, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
"I spent weeks in the Rachel Carson archives at Yale attempting to conjure, from her letters and personal writings, Carson's life as a cancer patient, a single mother, and an author who worried she wrote too slowly and revised too much. Now, in 55 luminous minutes here she is--speaking these very words. A tour de force performance by actor Kaiulani Lee. All I can say is brava!"
Dr. Sandra Steingraber, Division of Interdisciplinary and International Studies, Ithaca College, Author, Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment andHaving Faith: An Ecologist's Journey to Motherhood
"This is the Rachel that I knew, brought to life with almost uncanny skill and understanding."
Paul Brooks, Carson's editor at Houghton Mifflin, and author Rachel Carson: The Writer at Work
"You cannot walk away unmoved."
"Beautifully filmed...Kaiulani Lee captures the strengths of Carson's convictions, her resolve in overcoming corporate and governmental interests that would suppress the findings of her work, and her tenacity in fighting and winning the first major battle for environmental conservation. Rachel Carson was one strong, capable woman with ample courage and the self-assurance to air the scientific evidence of the impact of pesticides on the biosphere. A Sense of Wonder is highly recommended."
Cliff Glaviano, Bowling Green State University Libraries, Educational Media Reviews Online
"Christopher Monger brings Kaiulani Lee's one-woman stage show to the screen in this unconventional portrait of environmentalist Rachel Carson...An excellent performance by Lee...Highly recommended."
"An affecting tribute...Would appeal to students and adults with an interest in preserving nature."
"Extremely well done. Should be an essential title for libraries to have for the 2012 50th anniversary of the publication of Silent Spring. The extra 28-minute piece of commentary is incredible and thought-provoking."
Frederick Stoss, Associate Librarian, Arts and Sciences Libraries, State University of New York University at Buffalo
"As Bill Moyers says on the cover, 'you cannot walk away unmoved.'...It may bring a tear or two to the eye."
"Carson brought about greater awareness of crucial interconnections between all life forms and the need to protect the environment...[A Sense of Wonder] is appropriate for undergraduates, graduate students, and the general public."
Betty Glass, University of Nevada, Anthropology Review Database
includes 28-minute film LESSONS FROM CARSON and interviews with Stewart Udall, Carson's adopted son Roger, Kaiulani Lee, and director, Christopher Monger. Also SDH captions and scene selection.
The film's website
Awards and Festivals
Vancouver International Film Festival
Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital
Bioneers Moving Image Film Festival
Maine International Film Festival
Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival
Camden International Film Festival
Princeton Environmental Film Festival
One Earth Film Festival
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