The Ocean City Maryland Film Festival has awarded Search for the Cooper: A River Hidden in Plain View, a documentary about a group of Camden County teens on a 17-mile expedition down the river.
Along with county parks Director Maggie McCann and National Geographic photographer Anand Varma, the group took part in kayaking, hiking and exploring the areas around the Cooper to promote the river’s source and its important role as a natural community resource.
Search for the Cooper: A River Hidden in Plain View was produced by Sandy Cannon Brown, with videography by Dave Harp.
“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,” said county Commissioner Jeff Nash, liaison to the parks department.
“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.”
The exploration took place in June, with the help of The Upstream Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to connecting people with nature that partnered with the county to make the expedition possible.
“Upstream Alliance has a passion for youth adventures and taking people places they have probably been many times, but not from the perspective of being on the water,” explained McCann, who addressed the trip’s challenges.
“For the most part, we were out from 8 a.m. in the morning until 5 p.m. at night.”
Safety was a top priority on the trip, but McCann noted when parts of the river became unfamiliar and “out of the norm.”
“You’re really just going through swamp most of the time, so there were places we were walking, but we were walking through mud,” she recalled. “ … So if you weren’t careful, you (could) all of a sudden be knee deep in mud in the wetlands …
“It’s a terrain that most people haven’t encountered, for good reason.”
In a statement to the commissioner board, Camden Mayor Victor Carstarphen and Upstream Alliance President Don Baugh expressed their excitement for Search for the Cooper: A River Hidden in Plain View.
“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,” Baugh observed.
“The film gives great insight into the journey of these Camden youth as they explore the Cooper River,’ Carstarphen pointed out. “It has always been right here, but unfortunately, many have taken it for granted.”
The film has yet to be released to the public but will be shown at the Garden State Film Festival in Asbury Park Thursday, March 23 and at the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia on Thursday, April 20.
It will also air on Maryland Public Television for a week beginning Sunday, April 16 and made available to other public TV stations nationwide.