If anyone can find the silver lining in a
mushroom cloud it's this astounding, thoughtful
In his more than thirty films, he has explored some of the most important issues of our time. His films include; Iran the Crisis, In the Company of Fear, a documentary on non-violent resistance to the 'dirty war' in Colombia; the Golden Gate Award winning doc Open Season, and the multiple award-winning feature documentary, Bones of the Forest examining the struggle to save the ancient forests of British Columbia.
Gordon: On an ordinary day here in Edinburgh, the beautiful
historic capital of Scotland, something extraordinary happened. I
had some time on my hands, in the days before kids, and I popped
into the local Art house cinema. They had a one-off screening of a
documentary with an intriguing title. With open-minded anticipation
I took my seat in the auditorium. And then the film
I was captivated, mesmerized, emotionally moved, and in short, blown away. The film was called 'Scared Sacred' and the film-maker is Velcrow Ripper. He took a Q&A after the screening and shared his gentle but incredible passion for peace.
Velcrow, what sparked you to begin this journey in search of the sacred?
Ruach: What are the influences in your life?
More than anything, the incredible visionaries I
have filmed or interviewed throughout my life as a documentary
filmmaker. I have been blessed by the beautiful laughter of Arch
Bishop Desmond Tutu, the profound forgiveness of the parents of the
Bereaved Families Circle in Israel and Palestine, the fierce peace
of Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hahn, the
freshness and wonder of the Dalai Lama, the courage and commitment
of Julia Butterfly Hill, the fearless poetry of Subcommandante
Marcos of the Zapatistas, the wisdom of deep ecologist Joanna Macy,
the blazing red fire of spiritual cowgirl and Redvolutionary Sera
Beak, the crazy wisdom of Rob Brezny, the passion of Andrew Harvey,
the brilliance and humour of Rabbi David Zeller, the compassion of
Ashish Ramgobin, the great granddaughter of Gandhi - so many
visionaries have inspired me, I could keep going - Alice Walker,
Matthew Fox, Van Jones, Starhawk, Andrew Harvey, American Civil
Rights leader Congressman John Lewis, as well as the many people
whose names you wouldn't know, but whose stories have touched my
heart - the survivors of Hiroshima, the women of Afghanistan, the
Shoshone Indians of the Nevada Nuclear Test Site, on and on and on
- I have been blessed to meet some of the most inspiring human
lights on this planet.
My travels also have had a huge impact on me - I've circled the globe several times, from Timbuktu to Siberia, from Africa to Japan, from Colombia to New Zealand, on pilgrimages to the places of suffering in the world, the holy places of the world, and the places of innovation and transformation. Everywhere I go I am expanding my consciousness, deepening my soul, learning and growing. I am really, continually inspired by this incredible life I have chosen and that has chosen me.
Ruach: Were there any personal moments of sacred that touched you deeply?
Velcrow: So many! Every moment really, this planet, this plane of existence constantly fills me with awe and wonder. Some of the most transformative moments have been in times of terror - the deep recognition and compassion for the plight of the Palestinians I felt while being shot at in the occupied territories. The power and sadness of dawn in Hiroshima, on the anniversary that the first atomic bomb was dropped. The mist rising in Auschwitz on a cold fall morning, the haunted spirits crying out, "enough." The powerful faces of the women of the Revolutionary Afghan Women's Association, daring to march for women's rights in the face of fundamentalist oppression. But, every day there seems to be something new and transformative occurring.
Gordon: What drives you to have hope in these times?
Velcrow: My belief in the human spirit gives me hope. All the incredible people who are out there with their hearts breaking open, who refuse to contract into hatred and bitterness and despair, who still choose to imagine another world despite the brutal control that the power mongers wield over the lives of innocent humanity. I am convinced that we are in a time in which the sun is setting on the old paradigm. The sun is rising on a new world view, in which we evolve into the next phase of human existence; from one of power over, domination, and control, to one of mutually enhancing relationships with each other and the planet.
Gordon: What are your thoughts about the paradigm shift where people are opting out of the mainstream en masse and into online activism?
Velcrow: The internet is playing a key role in the paradigm shift that is happening. You can see clear and hopeful evidence of this in the way grass-roots, internet-based activism brought Barack Obama into power and will make him the first president with a direct, two-way connection to the people. For too long the leaders have been in ivory towers listening only to yes men and oil men and money men. Now we have the chance to see a new form of democracy - participatory democracy - at work. But Obama is not the solution - we are the solution. Nothing can stop us if we only join together with a shared set of values, especially a commitment to mutually enhancing relationships, in ALL our relationships. This means we make this world a better place; we make our relationships more loving with everyone we meet; we leave each encounter feeling better, not worse; feeling enhanced, not depleted.
On-line activism is a challenge because sometimes people think they can leave behind some of their codes of conduct, their basic decency, since it's only "virtual". Witness all the stupid comments on most You Tube videos. Yet it has tremendous power, tremendous possibility because it is so global, because it has become increasingly accessible to a broad demographic; and it allows people to find like-minded souls and work together for change in a way that was never possible before.
Gordon: What are your feelings about iPeace network?
iPeace is a brilliant example of on-line activism. Here we are witnessing what is needed to end war: dialogue. There have been bumps and rough edges, anger and sadness, as well as, love and understanding, conflict and resolution - this is all part of the dialogue process. I hope that as a community we grow and learn to see that there are always at least four sides to every discussion - my side, your side, the communities' side, and the planets side. You can add another dimension, too, which is the universe's perspective. In fact, we need to consider all of these perspectives in order to have a balanced view. I hope that the members of iPeace will increasingly learn to evolve and adopt this world-centric view - or even a Kosmocentric view, which is the next level of evolution. I am seeing this change take place, in little pockets everywhere and it is tremendously hopeful. We are witnessing the evolution of consciousness take place on-line today and everyone at iPeace is part of that process.
Gordon: Please tell us a bit about your new film 'Fierce Light'?
Velcrow: "Fierce Light: When Spirit Meets Action" is a feature documentary about the rising tide of spiritual activism around the world. It is part two of the "Fierce Light Trilogy", which began with Scared Sacred. It captures the enormous tidal wave of compassionate activism that is spreading all over the planet - what Gandhi called "Soul Force." and what Martin Luther King called "Love In Action."
It's important to note that when I say the word "spiritual" it has nothing to do with religion - please make that distinction. Religion can be spiritual, but too often it promotes violence or hatred which is counter-spiritual. Spiritual activism is activism that comes from a place of the heart, not just the head; it recognizes interdependence; it loves the enemy while demanding change; it is non-hierarchal, consensus-based, mutually-enhancing, and focuses more on what you are for, than what you are against. It recognizes that there are many causes and they are all important - it lets go of the old model of "my cause is the most important cause."
Gordon: When and where can we see it?
Velcrow: Check out: www.fiercelight.org for screening times and days, and sign up for our mailing list - we'll keep you posted! Write to me if you want to set up a screening for your own area as well. We are having our U.S. premiere on Friday January 9th at the Palm Springs International Film festivals and then it will be rolled out over the next two years around the world, in theatres, on DVD and on the internet.
ou can get Scared Sacred, my previous film, on Amazon.com or on netflix. It's about my search for hope in the ground zeros of the world. www.scaredsacred.org
Gordon: What is your next project?
Velcrow: "Evolve Dissolve: Another World is Here" is part three of the Fierce Light Trilogy and explores the dynamic possibility that today's planetary crisis could be transformed into a tremendous opportunity for a great leap forward of global consciousness, collaboration, and sustainability. "Evolve Dissolve" is a global search for living examples of "Another World" in the present day: inspiring stories, creative solutions in action, the world's visionaries answering the vital question: 'how can we turn end times into new beginnings?'
I am also writing a book called "BYOBama: Be Your Own Obama" about becoming the change you want to see in the world. I'm calling it a 'Self Help the World book,' and I am co-directing, with Sera Beak, a film called, "Redvolution: Dare to Disturb the Universe," which is about becoming your own spiritual super hero, and is going to be a sexy, funny, spiritual movie with a focus on the important role of feminine wisdom in transforming this world from the old paradigm of 'power over' to one of 'power with'.
Thanks for reading! Please sign up for the mailing list at www.fiercelight.org, and don't be shy to add me as a friend here on iPeace! You can also get involved in what we're up to, if you want to help with networking, organizing, setting up screenings, or in any other way by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org
Velcrow: My role as an artist is to capture and reflect the Zeitgeist of these times, offering clarity, positive solutions, and a spirit of celebration; transmitting the wisdom of the world's engaged visionaries - many of whom share both my sense of urgency and great possibility. I create transformational and cinematic documentaries, dramatic films, non-fiction books, articles, and web media that deal with the central issues of our times.
I've followed my camera wherever it leads me, circling the globe several times, searching for the meaning of life. I've discovered that there are as many answers to that question as there are fingerprints, and new answers keep appearing during these times of rapid and dramatic change.
FIERCE LIGHT is my personal journey into a world that is in the depths of a crisis that is both physical and spiritual, a world that needs to infuse a sense of awe and reverence into all of our interactions with ourselves, each other, and the planet.
Thank you Velcrow for all you have contributed to iPeace and for giving us your time. We look forward to hearing more from you.