image-Karen Harwell

Karen Harwell is the subject of a film based on her well-spent and adventurous life. She and filmmaker Nancy Marguiles will be on hand for the showing at the Odd Fellows Hall. Photo courtesy Nancy Marguiles



Taking action toward a serious topic of concern can be intimidating. It’s not always a simple task to keep fighting for what you believe in. For Bay Area resident Karen Harwell, it’s been a lifelong process. 

In a new 27-minute film, directed by local filmmaker Nancy Margulies, titled “Karen Harwell: Never Been Here Before,” she discusses all kinds of topics and key decisions she’s made in her life. While referencing climate change and other worldly issues, Harwell stresses improving the lives of a younger generation through education and political action.

A free screening of the film is set for 7 p.m. on Saturday at the Half Moon Bay Odd Fellows Hall, 526 Main St. 

Harwell, now in her late 70s, describes the parallels in challenges and solutions between her life and those dealing with today’s current problems. She met Margulies three years ago through the Elders Action Network, which encourages those who identify as elders to get involved in social justice issues. 

“Every time we had a conversation, I really liked what Karen had to say,” Margulies said. “She was always looking at how she could be most effective in the world, and what’s being asked of her next.”

Inspired by the words and perseverance of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and others, Harwell became an astute observer of the natural world. A pivotal moment in her life was joining Beyond War, a national nonprofit that emphasizes nonviolent conflict resolution practices. She moved with her family from California to Georgia to continue the group’s work, a decision that brought some scrutiny from others in the community.  

“In the early 1980s, the Physicians for Social Responsibility were being asked to come up with contingency plans for what to do in the event of a nuclear war,” Harwell recalled. “People said, ‘This is insane. We should be putting all of our emphasis into prevention.’ And it became known as Beyond War.”

The group’s aim wasn’t to sit down with world leaders. Instead, Harwell described a set of everyday core principles people could follow such as practicing nonviolence, letting go of anger and maintaining goodwill while working with others. After the film showing on Saturday, Margulies and Harwell will take questions and lead a discussion on how to take initiative with climate change solutions. 

“Ideally, the conversations would be about how can we each expand our

sphere of influence and make a difference in the world,” Margulies said. “What actions do you feel called to take, or what are you already doing that you can share with us?”

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