Directed by Velcrow Ripper, 2008, 97 minutes
Canadian documentarian Velcrow Ripper was filming a demonstration in Mexico when a friend and fellow documentarian was shot in the melee. The 2006 incident prompted Ripper to question his own ability to continue being a filmmaker and activist in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
Ripper sought the spiritual motivation—or “fierce light”—behind his own media activism, and from there a new film was born.
Fierce Light portrays examples of what Ripper calls “spiritual activism,” ranging from a Los Angeles protest to save North America’s largest urban farm, to thousands of Dalits (“Untouchables”) creating a safe haven in India, to historical events such as the American Civil Rights movement. It includes interviews with figures such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Daryl Hannah, bell hooks, and U.S. Rep. John Lewis.
The political actions featured in Fierce Light focus on compassion and interconnection, and as Lewis, who participated in the civil rights movement, points out, nonviolence and love.
“Hate,” he says in the film, “is too heavy a burden to bear.”
Fierce Light delves into territory that skeptics might consider fluffy or insubstantial, but the political actions it highlights are grounded, community-based, and well thought out. And many, such as the Dalits’ efforts in India, have slowly brought about change.
The film does become a bit repetitive in the middle, and skims over some potentially poignant examples by mentioning them only briefly, such as a scene in Thailand in which protesters stand and pray in the rising waters of a river being dammed.
The film’s breadth could be deemed its main flaw—too many examples, too many voices. But these voices are calling for peace, hope, and compassionate action. Considering the current state of the world, perhaps the more such calls we can hear, the better.
The second film in what will be a trilogy, Fierce Light is brave, beautiful, and compelling: food for thought for anyone who is spiritually minded or politically inclined, and a must-see for anyone who is both.
—Elena Johnson is a journalist, poet, and researcher based in Vancouver, B.C.
Watch the trailer.
Bullfrog Films, 2008, 72 min.
A luxury condo project sprouts in gritty, industrial South Boston, aiming to become the city’s first building constructed almost completely of recycled and sustainable materials. Veteran contractors and construction workers skeptically grapple with the challenges of eco-friendly building, while residents overcome their own resistance to the development. Creative cinematography makes the story more compelling.
Watch the trailer.
What’s the Economy For, Anyway?
Directed by John de Graaf, 2009, 40 min.
With its focus on consumerism and profit, the United States falls behind other industrialized nations in terms of health, happiness, and overall quality of life. Documentarian John de Graaf, the film’s writer and producer, explains these comparisons and encourages us to question the value of Gross Domestic Product.