‘Stewart Udall: The Politics of Beauty’ Free Documentary Screening on January 17 at UArizona

Jan. 3, 2023

Filmmaker John de Graaf will be on hand for the Udall Center's free screening of his new documentary.

Stewart Udall Film Screening Event Image

Register to attend the free screening here.

Stewart Udall served as an Arizona congressman for three terms before being appointed Secretary of the Interior under President John F. Kennedy in 1961.

He became well known as a champion for the environment and social justice and, during his tenure in Washington, Udall oversaw the addition of four national parks and 56 national wildlife refuges, along with numerous other monuments and historic and recreational sites.

Udall’s political accomplishments were many – too many to list here – but, before he was top-brass at the Department of the Interior (DOI), Stewart Udall was a UArizona Wildcat. 

Not only did he graduate from law school here, but he was also a star of the University basketball team and famously helped to desegregate the school’s cafeteria with help from his brother, Mo.

Documentary Filmmaker Comes to Tucson

Hit 'play' to watch a 2-minute trailer for the film.

Filmmaker John de Graaf wrapped production on his new documentary about Stewart Udall titled “Stewart Udall: The Politics of Beauty” last year. Right now, de Graaf is in the middle of a cross-country tour to show the film at universities and other institutions across the nation, including special presentations for the U.S. Congress, DOI, and National Archives.

The film has also been selected as part of the Colorado Environmental Film Festival and the Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival in California, where a lifetime achievement award named after de Graaf is given to a different filmmaker each year.

De Graaf has been making documentaries since the 1970’s and has produced roughly 45 films over the course of his 45-year career as a filmmaker. He will return to the UArizona campus along with panelists Karletta Chief (Prof. and Extension Specialist, Department of Environmental Science, and Director of the Indigenous Resilience Center), Kirsten Engel (Prof. of Law), and Katherine Morrissey (Assoc. Prof. and Head of the Department of History) to host a free screening of his new documentary sponsored by the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy.

A Natural Subject

Since de Graaf’s career has focused on shining a light on topics related to social justice and the environment since the beginning, he says that making a film about Stewart Udall was a natural fit. 

De Graaf first met Udall when he interviewed him for another film in 1988. “I was just really impressed…with how much integrity he had and how humble he was,” says de Graaf of the former Arizona politician, adding that Udall was “willing to admit to his mistakes,” unlike many politicians of today.

Udall told de Graaf that he thought the most important thing for any public official was “to be open minded,” which is a lesson de Graaf thinks could carry a lot of weight in the current political climate. 

“I think Stewart Udall serves as an inspiration that politics can be a positive thing,” de Graaf says. “That we actually can make change, that we can work together across partisan lines to protect the environment, to take care of all of us as citizens.”

He says that many young people today seem to have given up on politics altogether due to the belief that politicians are generally corrupt and are not interested in helping the average person improve their lives. 

Udall’s perspective on the role politicians play in helping the nation’s citizens live better lives could be seen as an antidote to that cynicism, de Graaf says. 

“I want Stewart Udall to be an inspiration for young people to get back into the political world and also work cooperatively… to figure out how we make our message such that we win across the board.”

And, though this documentary isn’t likely to be a panacea for our current political woes, it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

The UArizona screening of “Stewart Udall: The Politics of Beauty” will take place on Tuesday, January 17, at the ENR2 building from 2-4 PM.

Register to attend the event here. 


The Udall Center screening of 'Stewart Udall: The Politics of Beauty' is grateful for support from the Indigenous Resilience Center, as well as promotional support provided by TheLoft Cinema in Tucson.