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Meryl Streep, N. Scott Momaday Donate Talents For Film on Bandelier National Monument and Jemez Mountains


Academy Award-winning actress Meryl Streep and N. Scott Momaday, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, have leant their voices to a film that depicts Bandelier National Monument. NPS photo.

What national park could refuse the star power of an Academy Award or Pulitzer Prize winner? Not the folks at Bandelier National Monument, who were able to get Meryl Streep and N. Scott Momaday to provide narration for a film on the monument and the Jemez Mountains.

The film, Sky Island, was written, produced and directed by National Park Service and Harpers Ferry Center filmmaker John Grabowska. It is intended for national PBS broadcast in 2011, but a short version of the film premiered in Bandelier's new theater this past August.

The film, according to Mr. Grabowska, traces and describes the interesting landscape of northern New Mexico, where a range of mountains rises up from the high desert. The volcanic Jemez Mountains, which cover about 1,500 square miles, are isolated from all other ranges -- an island in the sky, surrounded by a desert sea, he said. Bandelier National Monument, meanwhile, is encompassed in this rise from the Rio Grande to Cerro Grande.

Sky Island "profiles this enchanting landscape and our place within it, with dramatic climate change effects already altering the desert and alpine ecosystem," said Mr. Grabowska.

A huge caldera lies at the center of this "island": the Valles Caldera National Preserve. North, West and South of the caldera is the Santa Fe National Forest, running from the caldera rim down to the desert floor. Bandelier also runs from the caldera rim (within the Jemez Mountains) all the way down to the Rio Grande to the southeast, including portions of the Pajarito Plateau and riparian areas along the Rio Grande.

Participation in the film production was, in a way, a health issue for Ms. Streep.

"Our personal health depends on the health of the environment,” she says. “Preserving national parks and wildlands is an exercise in long-term thinking about the sustainability of the planet, and it directly impacts each one of us. I hope viewers are inspired by the mood and method of Sky Island. I know I was, which is why I wanted to be a part of it."

Mr. Momaday, the first American Indian to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, lived in the Jemez Mountains in his childhood and until recently had a home in Jemez Springs. A deep and close relationship to the land has been a feature of his works.

"I have long maintained that in order to maintain our humanity, we must develop a relationship with the land that is moral and ethical, and National Parks are part of that effort," the author said. "I was glad to participate in the film on Bandelier and the Jemez Mountains, glad beyond the telling. Sky Island is a breathtaking film, and John is a master filmmaker."

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