Stewart Udall: The Politics of Beauty
The life and legacy of unsung hero Stewart Udall, one of America's most effective environmentalists in his role as Secretary of the Interior protecting our shared natural heritage and beauty.
Directed by John De Graaf
Produced by Zélie Pollon, John de Graaf
Photographer/Editor: Greg Davis
Executive Producers: Kevin White, Vada O. Manager
Narrator: Kate Udall
Music: Michael Bade
Stewart Lee Udall was the most prominent and effective Secretary of the Interior in American history, yet his legacy is not well recognized.
"A visually stunning journey through US environmental history." Bob Manning, Prof Emeritus, Environment, Univ of Vermont
STEWART UDALL: The Politics of Beauty examines the trajectory of Udall's life from his childhood through his Mormon mission, his World War II service, his student years at the University of Arizona, his time in Congress, and then, most significantly, his years as Secretary of the Interior under the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, focusing on his effectiveness as a dedicated, bi-partisan public servant.
The film introduces us to the early inception of modern environmental politics, to figures like Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, and David Brower. Udall fought tirelessly against greed and injustice, and for the protection of our planet and its natural beauty. Throughout the film, we see how Udall's ideas evolved, best illustrated in his conversion from a pro-power dam Arizona representative to the Interior Secretary who dealt the death blow to more proposed Grand Canyon dams. He acknowledged his mistakes while also doing his best to find common ground within the political process.
After his work as a politician, the film highlights his long fight to win compensation for Navajo Indians and "downwinders" who acquired cancer from their exposure to radiation during the Cold War atomic bomb testing - without being warned of the dangers!
Udall was also a well-respected author who called on all Americans to move away from our emphasis on economic growth and consumerism toward quality of life, and a new political ethos centered on beauty, simplicity, appreciation of nature and the arts, and a recognition of Earth's limits - a message that still resonates today!
Grade Level: 7 - 12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2023
Copyright Date: 2022
DVD ISBN: 1-948745-96-8
"It beckons us all to public service, informs us on how we came to benefit from the conservation we so enjoy, and, perhaps above all, teaches us the power of persistence and a smile. Don't miss this masterpiece."
Gus Speth, Director, United Nations Development Program, Former Dean, Yale School of Forestry and Environment
"Stewart Udall is a visually stunning journey through US environmental history. The film is a captivating story that intertwines US history, politics, tribal policy, and environmental justice and activism."
Yolanda Cieters, Sustainability Manager, Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability, Seattle University
"This film is long overdue, and much needed. It documents the remarkable breadth and depth of Udall's achievements. But the film does more than that. It helps us to appreciate Udall as an essential link between the conservation and environmental movements of the 20th century and the challenges, needs, and opportunities of the 21st."
Curt Meine, Senior Fellow, Aldo Leopold Foundation and Center for Humans and Nature, Author, Aldo Leopold: His Life and Work
"This highly informative and compelling film explains why the fascinating Stewart Udall is one of the most important voices for conservation during the 20th century. He was a driving force for one of the most productive conservation initiatives programs ever, which led to the Wilderness Act and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act; the rejection of two proposed dams that would have flooded the Grand Canyon; four new national parks, six new national monuments, and 56 new national wildlife refuges; and dozens of other new protected areas. A strong supporter of the tribes, he was committed to Native American land rights, most notably in Alaska. An enjoyable watch, The Politics of Beauty will be a natural at public events and gatherings and at any academic level from junior high school through graduate school. It is truly a major contribution."
Charles Wilkinson, Professor of Law Emeritus, University of Colorado, Author, Crossing the Next Meridian: Land, Water, and theFuture of the West
"Absolutely fantastic! An amazing and insightful offering."
Dr. Michael Dorsey, Assistant Professor, Environmental Studies, Dartmouth College
"Stewart Udall was a true Renaissance man, an environmentalist in heart and mind, but so much more: outdoorsman, athlete, family man, politician, author, war hero, civil rights activist. A pillar of the Environmental Movement, his legacy includes the Wilderness Act, Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, National Trails System Act, and crown jewel national parks such as Redwood and North Cascades. This is a brilliant film in both substance and form, ideal for the classroom."
Bob Manning, Professor Emeritus of Environment and Natural Resources, University of Vermont, Co-author, Walks of a Lifetime in America's National Parks
"Stewart Udall and the Politics of Beauty is a timely contribution to the history of politics in the US. The complexity of conservation in politics was presented in a most enjoyable way. The value of this for humanities discussion is immeasurable."
Heather Steinmann, Associate Professor of English, Western New Mexico University
"This film is important, timely, and absolutely stunning. I sincerely hope that the film is viewed by many for a long time to come. I know it will have a very positive impact."
Phil Schoenberg, Associate Professor of Philosophy and English, Western New Mexico University
"Magnificent. Very well done, many tears."
F. Ross Peterson, Professor Emeritus of History, Utah State University
"The film would be a useful addition to most any park, recreation, or tourism course. It does a wonderful job of weaving together a variety of justice-related themes that are more relevant than ever. The film moves quickly and is beautifully crafted."
Dan Dustin, Professor Emeritus of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism, University of Utah
"The film, and more importantly, Udall, provide inspiration to anyone that everyone can make a difference, and we all are rewarded when we care for our environment."
Justin Harmon, Associate Professor of Community and Therapeutic Recreation, University of North Carolina-Greensboro
"This is a political thriller and a biography about common sense and respect for others, humility, honesty, courage and compromise. It's very compelling, and it tells the remarkable story of someone actually leaving this world better than how they found it. Stewart Udall is a name a lot of people recognize, but not many know - and that's a shame, because Udall probably did more to improve the average American's quality of life than any politician in the history of this country. A lot of people in the USA will enjoy this well-told story about a non-divisive man who always sought effective compromise for the greater good. I also think it's one of those very rare movies that can actually help America heal."
Charles Dye, Associate Professor of Cinema, Virginia Technical University
"The writing, visuals, music, and pace all were masterfully done. This film does a magnificent job of capturing Udall and the causes to which he devoted his life."
Thomas G. Smith, Professor Emeritus of History, Nichols College, Author, Stewart L. Udall: Steward of the Land
"Students loved the 'independent spirit' of the documentary production and were inspired by the film...It was not only very informative, but it had an emotional depth that touched us all, and gave us a lot to think about. On top of that, the visuals were absolutely stunning. This is a beautiful documentary and I highly recommend it."
Helen Haxton-Stephenson, Director, Film Media Arts Program, Yavapai College
"Stewart Udall: The Politics of Beauty is beautiful, sad, joyous, contemplative, radical, thoughtful, challenging, and full of hope! One person can make a difference and Stewart Udall made a difference in so many ways!"
Shelton Johnson, Ranger, Yosemite National Park
"This film is beautifully done and parts of it brought tears to my eyes. The piece is filmed so artfully. I hope it gets the wide recognition and high praise that it deserves."
Jeff Jones, former Ranger, Lassen National Park
"It's a beautiful and accurate tribute. Bravo! So very well done."
Gordon Smith, former US Senator, Oregon
"A remarkable tribute...Udall was an advocate not only for the environment but for social justice and equality. This film illustrates all these points and more. It is a touching and eye-opening chronology of a true American hero, an inspirational, thought-provoking experience."
Bob Sampayan, former Mayor of Vallejo, California
"I'm absolutely blown away by this film. Sitting here nearly teary eyed just at the power and beauty of it."
Tim Palmer, Author, America's Great Mountain Trails and America's Great River Journeys
"This film filled me with hope. It fairly drips with beauty - both of nature and people. People of Udall's character continue to rise among us, and every young person called to public service ought to see Stewart Udall: The Politics of Beauty."
Jordan Fisher Smith, Author, Nature Noir and Engineering Eden
|DVDs include public performance rights.
DVD includes SDH captions for the deaf and hard-of-hearing and scene selection.
Awards and Festivals
Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital
Wild & Scenic Film Festival
Colorado Environmental Film Festival
Runner Up, Best Documentary, Zions Indie Film Fest
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... more Reviews
"I truly believe that Stewart Udall is an unrecognized American Hero. His example is certainly a lesson for a modern world steeped in division and partisan politics. I was deeply touched by the film and thought it was one of the most beautiful documentaries I have ever seen."
Tina Cordova, Co-founder, Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium
"The film is so exciting and truly a remarkable history of Mr. Udall. I knew him as an attorney for Navajo uranium workers. I am fortunate to have worked with him. The film must be presented soon to former Navajo uranium miners and their families."
Phil Harrison, Navajo Uranium Radiation Victims Committee
"A gorgeously shot and highly informative movie, a wonderful introduction to a fairly unique and entirely admirable figure from 20th-century American history whose passion for the natural world literally changed the landscape of this country."
Russell Arben Fox, Front Porch Republic
"A pragmatic politician with the soul of a poet, Stewart Udall used his years a Secretary of the Interior under presidents Kennedy and Johnson to do more than any previous Interior secretary to promote legislation and policy vital to the protection of America's natural environment. John de Graaf's moving film also reminds Americans in a time of climate change and racial turmoil what Udall understood more than half a century ago: Conservation and civil rights are joined, and the fight for one must be a fight for the other if either is to succeed."
Christopher Morris, Professor of History, University of Texas at Arlington, Author, The Big Muddy: An Environmental History of the Mississippi and Its Peoples from Hernando de Soto to Hurricane Katrina
"This is the chronicle of an extraordinary American's life. A true visionary, Stewart Udall employed his formidable political skills as Secretary of the Interior to protect America's remarkable natural heritage. Lesser known is Udall's role, powered by a deep personal commitment to justice, in advancing the cause of racial equality at a critical juncture in our nation's history."
Robert B. Keiter, Professor of Law, Director of the Wallace Stegner Center for Land, Resources and the Environment, University of Utah, Author, To Conserve Unimpaired: The Evolution of the National Park Idea
"Udall's furious commitment to an ethical approach to land-use changed the meaning of the outdoors to all Americans and gave generations the inspiration and capacity to pursue a 'love affair with the wonders of the Earth.' The Politics of Beauty will also surprise viewers with Udall's commitment to issues of race - particularly Native American issues - long before environmental justice was discussed. He was a pioneer in environmental policy and how the government might be used to ensure a more balanced human existence."
Brian Black, Professor of History and Environmental Studies, Pennsylvania State University-Altoona
"This moving and insightful film is a window into the emergence of the modern environmental movement. Stewart Udall was one of those people who bridge worlds and envision new ones. As Secretary of the Interior he shifted the department's focus from development to protection of natural resources, and spearheaded much of the great wave of 1960s environmental legislation. Caught between the mindset of capitalist development and that of humans living in balance with nature, he sided ever more strongly with the latter."
Stephen Wheeler, Professor of Human Ecology, University of California-Davis, Author, Planning for Sustainability: Towards Livable, Equitable, and Ecological Communities
"Stewart Udall championed racial equity, indigenous self-determinism, and functioning ecosystems not only as a politician but with his pen. He included artists and writers among his closest allies. This film powerfully conveys why art, and critical thought, or beauty, were important to his politics. It makes clear why he is still so admired by humanists, ecologists, and community leaders who refuse to settle for apocalypse and continue to struggle for a flourishing future."
Joni Adamson, President's Professor of Environmental Humanities, Director, UNESCO BRIDGES Sustainability Coalition, Arizona State University