A documentary by Velcrow Ripper. Rated PG. Opens Friday, May 15, at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas
In Fierce Light: When Spirit Meets Action, B.C.–raised filmmaker Velcrow Ripper continues the globetrotting journalism he handled so impressively in ScaredSacred, about hot spots where people are making a difference against the odds. Here, the focus is more diffuse, although you could argue that the issues raised are even more pressing.
Watch the trailer for Fierce Light: When Spirit Meets Action.
The new film's subtitle refers to a burgeoning awareness among progressives that any force for change must be infused by “soul power”. This isn't exactly a recent discovery. As attested to by luminaries like Bishop Desmond Tutu and Congressman John Lewis—whose poetic gravitas helps ground the movie—the confluence of heart, spirit, and gumption is what always fuels genuine reforms (not to be confused with spurious right-wing hate campaigns masquerading as protests).
Some of that is on display when Ripper attends an annual Army Day in small-town Alabama, where Christian preachers rail against Islam and small children are taught to play with heavy weapons. Meanwhile, Fort Benning, Georgia, is home to a constant vigil outside the School of the Americas, where Latin American soldiers are trained to torture their fellow citizens.
Narrated (somewhat repetitively) by the director, Light also jumps to locations in India, South Africa, Mexico, and Vietnam, among others. But the heart of the story is a community garden in South Central Los Angeles where the city thoughtlessly encouraged locals to develop abandoned land before suddenly selling it to commercial interests. The battle to save this oasis attracts Daryl Hannah, Joan Baez, tree sitter Julia Butterfly Hill, and other activists, and I wish the outcome was more inspiring, on several levels. Sometimes you need more than soul power; you need a Plan B.