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The Power of ForgivenessReview - The Power of Forgiveness
by Martin Doblmeier (Director)
First Run Features, 2008
Review by Christian Perring
Aug 26th 2008 (Volume 12, Issue 35)

This 77-minute documentary examines and advocates for the spiritual, psychological and social benefits of forgiveness.  It is narrated by its director Martin Doblmeier, who is founder of Journey Films, a company focusing on making spirituality, history and social issues.  The film centers on several cases of bitterness and remarkable forgiveness.  We see the bitterness between people in Ireland and Northern Ireland as a result of the Troubles, and an educational effort to teach young children how to forgive others.  This helps create a healing process.  Elie Wiesel, a Jewish survivor of German concentration camps, discusses the impossibility of forgiveness of some of the Nazis for their crimes, when they have not expressed profound regret for their actions.  We see film of him addressing the German parliament in 2000 asking them why they do not ask for forgiveness, and the following visit to Israel by the Bundes President, asking the Jewish people to forgive Germany.  There's scientific research into forgiveness, and various experts show their research into how forgiveness can help people get over crimes against them.  Various figures talk about the effects of 9/11 and how the culture of demanding justice has left so little room forgiveness.  Psychology professor Everett Worthington discusses both the science of forgiveness and also his experience relating to the murder of his own mother. The Reverend Lyndon Harris explains his goal of the creation of a Garden of Forgiveness at or near the Ground Zero site.  This idea is based on a garden of forgiveness in Beirut, and we see a group of widows of men who died in the World Trade Center travel to see how it works.  Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh discusses his work to build the reconciliation of North and South Viet Nam.  Back in the USA, Azim Khamisa discusses the killing of his son by a gang member in a senseless murder, and his work to promote forgiveness.  We see him in a school with the grandfather of the young man who murdered his son; the two men work together to educate children about avoiding violence and the power of compassion. 

The quality of production is good, and some of the speakers are gripping.  Some aspects of the production lay on the advocacy a bit thickly, especially in the choices of background music which so clearly aims to provoke the viewer's emotions.  Nevertheless this documentary could be a useful resource for anyone teaching about forgiveness.  The DVD has some extras, including film of Bishop Desmond film talking eloquently about the South African process of truth and reconciliation after apartheid. 

© 2008 Christian Perring


Christian Perring, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York.


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