Private Project

QUAKERS: The Quiet Revolutionaries

QUAKERS: The Quiet Revolutionaries opens with father and daughter activists Ingrid and George Lakey of Philadelphia, founders of Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT). We show their group waging a successful national campaign to make PNC Bank give up financing mountaintop removal coal mining. “We can do it!” says Ingrid Lakey. “It’s in our DNA.”

The narrative of the film is driven by stories of Quakers led by their unique vision. Revolutionaries from the start, Quakers defied the Church of England and embraced racial and gender equality. Using verite and archival footage, interviews, voiceover historical quotations, and graphic animations, we reveal nearly four centuries of Quaker activism.

Quaker historian Ben Pink Dandelion takes us back to post-Civil War England in the 1650’s, where George Fox’s vision of “that of God in everyone” took root. Those drawn to his new religion “lived in the light,” valuing personal spirituality over institutionalized religion. Quakers were persecuted, tortured and even killed, which continued with their arrival in the New World. The Religious Society of Friends, commonly known as Quakers, insisted on fixed price trading, insuring a reputation for reliability and honesty. The Quaker on the cereal box was one of many advertisements exploiting that reputation. Their early testimonies of equality, integrity, community and peace remain fundamental to Quakers.

At a time when slaveholding was prevalent, Quakers forced their members to choose between slaveholding and their faith. This led to Friends’ leadership in the Underground Railroad. We explore an abolitionist's safe house in Indiana to a jazz riff by Dizzy Gillespie.

Alice Paul, an eighth generation New Jersey Quaker, was an important force in the fight to pass the Nineteenth Amendment. Braving imprisonment and torture, her group of suffragists were the first to picket the White House. After a 75-year struggle, women finally won the right to vote. Historical events such as protests for women's suffrage are intercut with interviews with contemporary Quakers. Says Ingrid Lakey: "I stand on their shoulders."

Bayard Rustin, a Quaker credited with introducing Martin Luther King to his signature tactic of nonviolent direct action, was chief organizer of the March on Washington in 1963. He introduces us to the Peace Testimony as one who chose prison as an alternative to serving in World War II.

George Lakey has also spent time in prison standing up for his beliefs. Says his daughter Ingrid: “We are using Quaker worship as part of what we do…You don’t need your faith over here and your activism over here, it can be one.”

This film is not a valentine to Quakerism. We are critical of controversial Quaker presidents Richard Nixon and Herbert Hoover, who are disparaged by historians and activists. We also include an African American author who has a critical view and happens to be a Friend herself.

We hope that these stories of partnership between faith and activism can inspire and motivate, starting a conversation to help us navigate these troubled times.

  • Janet Paxton Gardner
    Director
    2015-2016 Guggenheim Fellow: Director: Lost Child: Sayon's Journey; Mechanic to Millionaire: The Peter Cooper Story; Last Ghost of War; Siberian Dream; Precious Cargo; Dancing Through Death: The Monkey, Magic & Madness; A World Beneath the War
  • Janet Gardner
    Writer
    2015-1016 Guggenheim Fellow; Lost Child: Sayon's Journey; Mechanic to Millionaire: The Peter Cooper Story; Last Ghost of War; Siberian Dream; Precious Cargo; Dancing Through Death: The Monkey, Magic & Madness; A World Beneath the War
  • Elena Mannes
    Writer
    Eight-time Emmy Award winner; The Music Instinct: Science & Song; Mechanic to Millionaire: The Peter Cooper Story; On Our Own Terms: Moyers on Dying; Norman Rockwell: Painting America; New York Underground: A History of the NYC Subway; Amazing Grace with Bill Moyers
  • Janet Gardner
    Producer
    Executive Producer: Lost Child: Sayon's Journey; Mechanic to Millionaire: The Peter Cooper Story; Last Ghost of War; Siberian Dream; Precious Cargo; Dancing Through Death: The Monkey, Magic & Madness; A World Beneath the War
  • Richard Nurse
    Producer
    Senior Producer: Quakers: The Quiet Revolutionaries; formerly Executive Director of Crossroads Theater Company, New Brunswick, NJ
  • Richard Nurse
    Key Cast
    “Narrator”
  • Maurice Hines
    Key Cast
    “Voice of Bayard Rustin”
  • Andrew Muir
    Key Cast
    “Voice of George Fox”
  • Jason Cutts
    Key Cast
    “William Penn”
  • Rich Swingle
    Key Cast
    “John Woolman”
  • Kevin Cloutier
    Cinematographer
    Four-time Emmy Award winner; Director of Photography for Gardner Group: Last Ghost of War, Siberian Dream, Precious Cargo, Dancing through Death, and Mechanic to Millionaire: The Peter Cooper Story. For CBS: CBS Reports, 60 Minutes and 60 Minutes II. For PBS: PBS Newshour: "Making Sense" Series with Paul Solman;
  • John Vondracek
    Graphic Design and Animation
    Founder, The String Theory Design NY
  • Laura Israel
    Editing
    Editor: "Fishing with John" with John Lurie; "Africa Unite: A Celebration of Bob Marley's 60th Birthday;" "Hearts of Africa." Director: Windfall
  • Chelsea Smith
    Editing
    Defining Hope; Isabella Rossellini's Green Porno Live; House of Z (Asst. Editor)
  • Film Type:
    Documentary
  • Genres:
    History, Religion, World Peace, Civil Rights, Women's Rights, Human Rights, Activism, Environmental Justice, African-American, Student, Mature, Christian, Women, Youth
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 19 minutes 54 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    June 13, 2018
  • Production Budget:
    490,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United Kingdom, United States
  • Film Language:
    English
  • Shooting Format:
    1080i, HDV
  • Aspect Ratio:
    1.78 (16x9)
  • Film Color:
    Black & White and Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    No
  • Student Project:
    No
  • New Hope Film Festival
    New Hope, PA
    United States
    July 21, 2018
    World Premiere
    Audience Choice Award for Best Documentary
  • Flickers' Rhode Island International Film Festival
    Providence, RI
    United States
    August 12, 2018
    Grand Prize: Flickers' International Humanitarian Award
Director Biography - Janet Paxton Gardner

Janet Paxton Gardner is the producer, director and writer of award-winning documentaries on Vietnamese and Cambodian subjects as well as a notable film on the life of American Peter Cooper. In recognition of her work with the Gardner Documentary Group, she received a Guggenheim Fellowship for 2015-2016. Her latest project is Quakers: The Quiet Revolutionaries. Ms. Gardner began her career as a film editor, field producer and news writer for WNBC and WRC-TV. She also was a staff feature writer for the Cleveland Plain-Dealer and contributor to major newspapers such as the New York Times and Boston Globe. She is an alumna of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and Cooper Union.

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Director Statement

Director’s Statement

I first met Quakers in Vietnam on a life-changing trip designed to make friends with our former enemies sponsored by the U.S. Indochina Reconciliation Project. I found their nonviolent approach inspiring, and, once back in the U.S., began exploring the topic. I found that the great William Penn was a Quaker and that his country estate was about 30 minutes from my New Jersey home. Many scout trips and a Kickstarter campaign later, I was off and running.

In 2012 I found myself with fellow travelers walking up an immense mountain in the rain. This steep, rocky mountain was a spiritual site called Pendle Hill in Lancashire, UK, something akin to Jerusalem for Christians. It was an intense green, greener than anything I had ever seen in America. It was here that George Fox had a vision in 1652. The English Civil War was over, and King Charles the First had lost his head. The atmosphere was chaotic, and many people felt themselves in a spiritual wilderness. When Fox, a tall, charismatic fellow who had been brought up in the Church of England, spoke of his vision of “a great people to be gathered,” many listened and became convinced. They hoped to have a direct relationship with God. This is what George Fox promised when he formed the Religious Society of Friends.

As a filmmaker, I have always been interested in revealing hidden histories, and this was a huge story crying out to be told. I felt Quakers were underserved—that few people other than Quakers themselves knew much about them, because they didn’t proselytize. PBS had not covered them, nor had any other network as far as I knew. A narrative on their history would reveal something unique—a marriage between activism and spirituality.

When I learned that there were more Quakers in Africa than in the United States, I became even more curious about them. And the more of them I meet, the more curious I become.

Janet Gardner