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Originally published Thursday, September 10, 2009 at 3:01 PM

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Movie review

'Fierce Light': an inspiring look at the spiritual-activism movement

"Fierce Light: Where Spirit Meets Action," an inspiring documentary by filmmaker and media activist Velcrow Ripper, chronicles the increasingly global movement of spiritual activism.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 3 stars

"Fierce Light: When Spirit Meets Action," a documentary with Alice Walker, Daryl Hannah, Desmond Tutu, Julia Butterfly Hill. Written and directed by Velcrow Ripper. 97 minutes. Not rated; suitable for general audiences. Northwest Film Forum, through Sunday; see Page 16.

It's been exactly eight years since the terrorist attacks on New York's World Trade Center, and 9/11 seems like a perfect date for Northwest Film Forum to host an all-weekend appearance by documentary filmmaker Velcrow Ripper and his inspiring film, "Fierce Light," which chronicles the increasingly global movement of spiritual activism.

In many respects, the film represents a culmination of response to 9/11 and its earthshaking aftermath — a global embrace of nonviolent protest and united humanity (proposed by Mahatma Gandhi and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., among others) as a response to rampant warfare and political oppression. It's a celebration of those whose actions speak louder than words, and an occasionally heartbreaking portrait of violent force against this peace-loving momentum. As we witness the triumphs and tragedies of many prominent activists, we also see that a bold, uncompromising quest for truth can sometimes prove fatal.

The film is dedicated to Ripper's friend and fellow media activist Brad Will, who was killed in Mexico in 2006 while videotaping protests against Oaxaca state Gov. Ulises Ruiz. But Ripper's central example of spiritual activism — and the connecting thread of his soothing and frequently meditative film — is the creation, destruction and ultimate rebirth of the South Central Farm in Los Angeles, where residents of the city's most violent neighborhood created a communal organic-food farm despite the constant threat of eviction by greedy developers.

While including passionate testimony from devoted activists such as author Alice Walker, actress Daryl Hannah, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and, most poignantly, environmental activist Julia Butterfly Hill, "Fierce Light" is also a globe-trotting record of Ripper's personal quest (following his previous film, "Scared Sacred") to transcend specific religious faith and embrace an all- encompassing vision of unified humanity, with the civil-rights movement of the '50s and '60s as its solid foundation.

The message of "Fierce Light" is not as focused as it could've been (it's essentially a loose compendium of inspiring examples to follow), but that doesn't make it any less urgent. Herein lies the key to humankind's ultimate survival, and what could possibly be more important?

Jeff Shannon: j.sh@verizon.net

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