Sunday, July 10, 2011

Filmmaker Velcrow Ripper spotlights compassionate activists & sources of hope in the "context of a global crisis, which I think is undeniable"

Velcrow Ripper's 2009 documentary film Fierce Light: Where Spirit Meets Action begins with the Canadian director sharing his personal story about the assassination of his friend, journalist Brad Will, killed by paramilitary gunmen in Oaxaca, Mexico, while filming a strike. Ripper then asks, "Why do I keep working to change the world when we're up against impossible odds and how can I even think about spirituality when they're killing my friends?"

He answers this question by following several other stories showing how grassroots activists have responded to the devastation of the Vietnam war; class and race-based oppression; commercial destruction of an urban community garden in Los Angeles; and commercial destruction of an ancient old-growth forest.

Compassionate activists featured: American civil rights activist John Lewis, Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, Archibishop Desmond Tutu, environmentalists Daryl Hannah, Julia Butterfly Hill, Van Jones, and Joanna Macy.

In this interview excerpt, the filmmaker describes the film's purpose:
I would say that one of the things that the film tries to do is offer us a source of hope. And all my films now are in the context of a global crisis, which I think is undeniable.

One of the roles of this compassionate activism or this shift in the way we create change is also to give us strategies for maintaining hope in the face of crisis. In fact that's what Scared Sacred was all about. In that film I went to the ground zeros of the world, the place where you'd least expect to find hope, searching for it, because I actually think that the worst thing that could happen right now is that humanity gives up. You've seen it in some tribes in the Amazon where their numbers have been reduced, their land has disappeared and they just stop procreating. Turning crisis into compassion is really the root of it....

The other big focus of this compassionate activism that Fierce Light focuses on is a shift in activism to focusing more on what we're for than just on what we're against. So it's solution based. So much of what's happening, and so much of the way change happens in the world today is through the media. We live in a mediated culture and wars are fought as much in the public arena as they are on the battleground...The message of Gandhi and the message of Martin Luther King was that the most effective tool you have is your ethical integrity. And when you react with violence, you've lost that in the public eyes...

And for me, I see spirituality as coming from a depth perspective. More than anything, what the film comes back to is the idea of what Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls 'ubuntu', and in Buddhism what they refer to as ‘inter-being'. And so, almost a definition of spirituality for me is that we are all interconnected. That in turn is also reflected in science in systems theory.

I hope to help and be part of the movement that I think is the biggest project that's taking place on the planet right now: the movement from an industrial growth society — a life-destroying society — to a sustainable society, sustainable on multiple levels. A society of mutually enhancing relationships between each other and the planet, which I think is where we're going.

That's the next step in our evolution is to get to that. Moving from the egocentric point of view to the world-centric point of view. And that's my activism.

I consider myself a media activist and that's the root of where I'm pointing people. I guess many, many people are working on this project but it's a shift we need to make right now. And it's why it's an exciting time to be alive because the stakes are really, really high and we get to choose to be part of the solution if we so desire.

I'm hopeful. I'm very hopeful. I think we are waking up. Change is happening really fast. There are two graphs: there's the graph of destruction and there is the graph of transformation. It's anybody's guess which one is going to peak out first but I choose hope.
Read the entire interview at Cinema Spy.

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