A film on the history of the Schuylkill River will premier in Philadelphia and Pottsville at screening events hosted by the Schuylkill River Heritage Area.
Premiers of the 47-minute documentary, the Revolutionary River, will take place on Sunday, March 21 at 1 p.m. at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and on Saturday, March 27 at 7 p.m. at the Sovereign Majestic Theater, 209 N. Centre St., in Pottsville.
Following the Philadelphia screening, attendees are invited to a reception at the Fairmont Park Interpretive Center. Following the Pottsville screening, attendees are invited to a reception at the Schuylkill County Historical Society. At both receptions, the producer will be available to discuss the film.
The Revolutionary River was produced for Connecticut Public Television by Telemark Films as Episode One in their National Heritage series. Following the premier showings, the film will be offered to public television stations in Pennsylvania, and when the series is completed, it is planned to be released nationally.
"In 2007, we were approached by one of our supporters in Philadelphia who knew the principals at Telemark Films in Connecticut," said Kurt Zwikl - executive director of the Schuylkill River National and State Heritage Area. "They were interested in producing a series on heritage areas."
They spoke and agreed that the Schuylkill River episode would be the first in the series. The Heritage Area raised funding of $112,000 to underwrite their share of the production, receiving grants from the William Penn Foundation, the Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources, and the National Parks Service.
The filming, which began six months after the initial concept, focused on three themes: The American Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, and the Environmental Revolution in the Schuylkill River Valley.
"The film begins at a time in early Pennsylvania history when there were clashes between the regional Native American tribes," Zwikl explained. "It goes on to discuss settlement, the French & Indian War, the American Revolution, the industrial period of canals and railroads, culminating in the state of the river after the Industrial Age."
By the 1940s, the Schuylkill River was so badly polluted that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania stepped in to begin cleaning out coal silt and other contaminates in the river, becoming one of the first large-scale environmental cleanups in the United States.
"The river is in a vastly improved condition," Zwikl noted. "It serves as a source of drinking water for over one million people."
Zwikl added that the Schuylkill River is rapidly becoming a region recreational destination. "There's canoeing, kayaking, fishing has returned in some areas, and the 128-mile Schuylkill River Trail and will eventually open for hiking and biking from Philadelphia to Pottsville."
"The film is a different kind of history of the region," Zwikl said. "I'm happy with the way it turned out. We hope the premier goers will feel the same way."
For more information on the events, see: www.schuylkillriver.org, or call: 484-945-0200.