Fueled by the belief that another world is possible, acclaimed filmmaker Velcrow Ripper takes us on inspiring journey into what Martin Luther King called Love in Action, and Gandhi called Soul Force; what Ripper is calling Fierce Light. Illustrated by interviews with spiritual luminaries Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Thich Nhat Hanh; and activists including Alice Walker, and Julia Butterfly Hill - FIERCE LIGHT is a spiritual experience in itself, about the impact and the necessity of spiritual action in today's world. Written by
Has a cumulative power that makes real the possibilities for our planet
Dedicated to his friend Brad Will who was killed while filming protests against the State repression of a teacher's strike in Oaxaca, Mexico, Canadian filmmaker Velcrow Ripper's Fierce Light: When Spirit Meets Action is a celebration of those willing to take action in support of their spiritual beliefs. The film is the second installment of a trilogy on spiritual activism of which the 2004 award winning film Scared Sacred was the first. As to the motivation for the film, Fierce Light, Ripper says, "I began to look around and realize that my spirituality and my activism had been so separated, it was almost a schizophrenia in my life, so I felt the need to bring that together." After the opening segment in Oaxaca when Brad is tragically killed and Ripper's life is endangered by State Police, the film explores Mahatma Gandhi's "soul force" and Martin Luther King's "love in action" as the guiding force behind the American civil rights movement of the 1960s. The film shows the walk from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery and the violence and tear gas the marchers encountered along the way.
Civil rights activist, now congressman, John Lewis, says even after being beaten and left for dead on the Bloody Sunday March of 1965 in Selma Alabama, hatred and violence were never an option. Lewis recalls Martin Luther King saying to him, "we just gotta love the hell out of them." Ripper talks about the civil rights struggle in these terms, "What struck me most was that this was movement rooted solidly in love. Not the hallmark love that we have come identify with the word, but a fierce love, a love of unrelenting compassion, of unwavering nonviolence." Ripper's camera also takes us to India to visit the Dalit community formerly known as "untouchables", to Nobel Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu in South Africa, to the farmers in South Central Los Angeles and the protesters like actress Daryl Hannah and tree sitter Julia Butterfly Hill who sat in trees and marched and sang to defend the farmers right to grow their crops on a piece of land slated for development, and to visit with Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hahn as he leads the movement for reconciliation in Vietnam. There is also a segment on Buddhist teacher, author and counselor Noah Levine whose book "Dharma Punx" describes his awakening to compassion after a youth spent with drugs and violence.
Ripper interviews spiritual activist and author Gloria Jean Watkins known as bell hooks and has this to say about the meeting, "Fierce Light for her is awareness, fierce compassion, fierce love, opening to that which is, fully. The sacred is to be found in every moment, not in an isolated context, not in some distant enlightenment. It is in the flash of a red cardinal across the sky, in the new blooms of a lily in her garden." The focal point of the film, however, is the struggle by the South Central Farmers of Los Angeles to protect their 14-acre community farm in an industrial area in south Los Angeles from developers. In that farm, 300 families, mostly Latino, grew more than 100 varieties of fresh food and healing herbs for their community from 1994 until 2006.
Ripper shows the protests of singers Joan Baez and Willie Nelson, Hollywood stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Danny Glover, and Daryl Hannah, and politicians such as Ralph Nader and Dennis Kucinich against the order to vacate the land and the tears that flowed freely when the bulldozers came. While showing examples of people who put their bodies on the line for a cause, the director makes it clear there is not a single standard for activism. "When I talk about activism in the film and spirituality in the film", he says, "it doesn't have to be in any way, shape, or form the more visible forms of activism. It can be just the way we live our lives, how we relate to people, coming from a place of compassion." Fierce Light can become a bit cloying at times but it has a cumulative power that makes real the possibilities for our planet. While there will always be risk involved in taking action for one's beliefs, in the words of Anais Nin, "And the time came when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." That time is now.
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