Scene from documentary, “Search for the Cooper; A River Hidden in Plain View.” Film by Dave Harp and Sandy Cannon-Brown

CHERRY HILL, N.J. – The documentary, “Search for the Cooper: A River Hidden in Plain View,” received a Best of Film Award at the Ocean City Maryland Film Festival on March 5, 2023.

The film, produced by Sandy Cannon-Brown, with videography by Dave Harp, chronicles an expedition taken by four local Camden-areas youths in June 2022 to unlock the hidden beauty of the area and discover the secrets of the Cooper River in Camden County.

The group kayaked, bushwacked and hiked through the dense overgrowth, debris and challenging terrain, ultimately traveling 17 miles on a journey to discover the source of Cooper River, while campaigning to preserve and reclaim the area’s natural beauty.

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,” said Brown-Gourdine. “It raised their awareness about water, how they use it, where it goes and how to care for our rivers”

Camden County Parks Director Maggie McCann lead the excursion with a film crew and National Geographic Explorer photographer Anand Varma, who documented the trip.

“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 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. 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.”

The Upstream Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting people with nature, partnered with Camden County to make the expedition possible.

“We’re overjoyed that this film is gaining national recognition,” said Don Baugh, president of the Upstream Alliance. “It 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. 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.”

“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 of our natural resources.”

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.

On March 18, the film will screen at the DC Environmental Film Festival. Following the screening, McCann and the youth explorers will participate in a panel discussing their trip and the importance of preserving natural spaces.

The film will also be shown at the Garden State Film Festival in Asbury Park on March 23.

“Search for the Cooper” is set to air on Maryland Public Television April 16 to April 22 and will be added to the national television feed, which makes the film available for other public television stations to air nationwide.

To preview “Search for the Cooper: A River Hidden in Plain View,” visit

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