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ScaredSacred (2004)

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In a world teetering on the edge of self destruction, award-winning filmmaker Velcrow Ripper sets out on a unique pilgrimmage. Visiting the 'Ground Zeros' of the planet, he asks if it's ... See full summary »

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In a world teetering on the edge of self destruction, award-winning filmmaker Velcrow Ripper sets out on a unique pilgrimmage. Visiting the 'Ground Zeros' of the planet, he asks if it's possible to find hope in the darkest moments of human history. Staring directly into the face of war, tragedy and instability, Ripper travels to the minefields of Cambodia; war-torn Afghanistan; the toxic wasteland of Bhopal; post-9/11 New York; Bosnia; Hiroshima, Israel and Palestine. This unflinching documentary captures his five-year odyssey to discover if humanity can transform the 'scared' into the 'sacred'. Confronting horror and heartbreak around the world, Ripper meets those who have suffered first-hand. And in each place, he unearths unforgettable stories of survival, ritual, and recovery. Scared Sacred deftly weaves together haunting and luminous footage with words, memories, and an evocative soundscape to create an exquisite portrait of a search for meaning in times of turmoil. With an ... Written by Anonymous

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Release Date:

14 September 2004 (Canada)  »

Also Known As:

Die Kräfte des Guten  »

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CAD 498,000 (estimated)
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Transforming the scared into the sacred
31 October 2005 | by (Vancouver, B.C.) – See all my reviews

Directed by Vancouver documentarian Velcrow Ripper, ScaredSacred looks at how people who have experienced brutal disasters during their life have been able to maintain their humanity and devote themselves to working for social change. Scared Sacred, which was voted into the Toronto International Film Group's Canada's Top Ten list in 2004, takes the viewer on a personal journey to visit some of the most troubling spots on the planet and shows that the only meaningful response to hatred is compassion. Ripper, who is also the film's narrator, explores the possibility of transforming the "scared" into the "sacred" by "breathing in" the pain and "breathing out" compassion.

Ripper visits the site of a Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India where a gas leak (deliberately caused or not) killed 8000 people in 1984; the killing fields of Cambodia, where reminders of Khmer Rouge atrocities are everywhere; Sarajevo, where anger still haunts the survivors of the Balkan civil war. Included are visits to Hiroshima, refugee camps in Pakistan, women's schools in Afghanistan, and Israel and Palestine where survivors mourn the loss of their loved ones. Reminiscent of the documentary Promises, Ripper finds that when Israelis and Palestinians realize their common humanity, they can no longer be enemies as they tell him that "we paid the highest price possible" so "if we can talk, anyone can."

The director reveals that part way through his journey that he had "become a tourist of darkness," and that he "was filling my pockets with images while leaving my heart untouched." He pauses long enough to reflect on this in a Buddhist monastery and discovers that meditation brought him closer to the pain rather than shielding him from its reality. One of the most moving sequences is at ground zero in New York City after 9/11 where Ripper shows us a Zen teacher who says the reason tourists come to look at the ruins is not to simply stare but to "connect with their vulnerability."

Another affecting sequence is in Cambodia where Aki Ra tells how he was forced by the Khmer Rouge to lay land mines in the jungles and how his entire family was murdered without reason. Aki Ra today spends his life uncovering and disarming from 15 to 100 of the land mines each day. In Sarajevo, he interviews artists that lived on the infamous Sniper's Alley during the war and who used their art to transform the "negative energy of the war into a positive vibration of the human soul". In India, he listens as the Dalai Lama tells his followers that "the concept of war is based on the concept of 'we' and 'they'" and that the first disarmament must be internal.

Over and over, Ripper meets people to whom pain is not a trigger for revenge but an opening for spiritual advancement. A Rabbi even dares to articulate that there is a larger context for our pain even though hidden to our conscious mind. Although ScaredSacred does not probe how these events might have been prevented or who is responsible, it does provide a deeply moving response to those who despair for humanity's future. Ripper himself concludes the film with the statement that brings home the underlying theme in the film: "dread allows me to see each face as my own."


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