Students and members of the community gathered in Gibble Auditorium Tuesday, Oct. 3 for the premiere of a documentary titled “Gandhi’s Gift.”
The film’s director and co-writer Kell Kearns made an appearance for the first public screening of the film. He gave an introduction to the audience and personally thanked Professor of Religious and Asian Studies Dr. Jeffery Long and the Director of the Center for Global Understanding and Peacemaking Dr. David Kenley.
The College’s Center for Global Understanding and Peacemaking, along with other departments, helped bring the film’s premiere to campus.
Kearns and his co-writer Cynthia Lukas worked a total of five years on this documentary with Heaven on Earth Creations – a non-profit educational media organization. It included filming at influential locations in Mahatma Gandhi’s life such as India, South Africa and the United Kingdom.
Gandhi’s message of nonviolence was a major contributing factor to India gaining its independence from the United Kingdom.
Kearns and Lukas focused on Gandhi’s last years of life and how he helped end the violence by staging hunger strikes and encouraging others to do the same.
While imprisoned in Great Britain, Gandhi developed a strong following across the world. Upon returning to India, he embarked on a famous journey known as “The Miracle of Noakhali.”
Kearns and Lukas got help from the archives of the Gandhi Foundation. This allowed them to feature never before seen footage of Gandhi in their documentary, adding to their original footage of the places Gandhi had visited.
A main conflict of the film was the racial tension between the Hindus and Muslims in India. When featuring the last years of Gandhi’s life, a unique addition to the film was the testimony of Gandhi’s grandson Dr. Rajmohan Gandhi – the son of Devdas Gandhi.
Gandhi’s message of nonviolence and interfaith harmony was a large part of his impact and can be transferred to today’s problems as well. As Kearns stated in his introduction to the movie, people can learn to find peaceful solutions to current world problems.
Gandhi’s impact was not just helping to free India, but also included his legacy, which inspired 47 other colonies to become independent. He also favored small communities and spoke out against corporate companies.
“In the broad sense, he [Gandhi] progressed toward nonviolence,” Kearns stated. Kearns also gave examples of leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. who developed nations in similar ways to Ghandi.
Kearns shared that his passion for Gandhi started when he was 15 years old and read bibliographies and the words of Gandhi. Kearns has worked on other related films and it is his lifelong goal to capture the stories of activists using nonviolence to realize social justice initiatives.
The screening coincided with Gandhi’s birthday, which was Oct. 2. The film “Gandhi’s Gift” is the first of several, major documentaries about Gandhi’s life. The other films will be released next year and will focus on his earlier life and his spiritual path.
Kearns explained that there was only a week between the completion of editing and the premiere. The television station PBS recommended they release the films in a series, which led to the three-part documentary.
The idea for the documentary began at the premiere of “Globalized Soul” in Berlin, where Kearns met Arun Gandhi, another grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. From there, Kearns and Lukas met Arun Gandhi for tea and followed him to the location where they would start gathering video. This led to their documentary.
The documentary delved into the journey of Gandhi in his last years. His practices of fasting and visiting various lands showed he cared about both Muslim and Hindu citizens and worked hard to gain recognition and acceptance of the so-called, “untouchables.”
The “untouchables” are a group of people considered outcasts and therefore generally not even considered to be worthy of being a part of the Indian caste system.