Fanning the Flames of Love : An Interview with Velcrow Ripper
My films are intended to be both a reflection of the heart of the times, and a catalyst, fanning the flames of love. ~ Velcrow Ripper
ALIVE MIND: Occupy Love is the third film of the “Fierce Love Project.” It comes after Sacred Scared (Special Jury Prize of the Toronto Film Festival), an uplifting pilgrimage through war-torn places around the world, followed by Fierce Light, a film about bringing together spirituality, and activism. Is there a logical progression to these films? How would you relate Fierce Light to Sacred Scared and Occupy Love?
VELCROW RIPPER: Indeed there is – the films are about about the “Heart of the Times” of this unique period in human history, from the millennium to 2012. It is a time of enormous crisis, and enormous possibility. The overall theme is, how can the global crises that we are facing lead to the evolution of humanity?
Scared Sacred takes us on a journey to ground zero’s of the world – places like New York City during 9.11, Afghanistan, Hiroshima, Bosnia, Cambodia, Israel and Palestine. In each of those places, I discovered some of the most remarkable individuals I have ever met. I found that there were two things that the survivors all had in common, that helped them get through the crises they faced with their spirits transformed, not crushed: having a source of meaning, which was different for each of them, and taking action.
This lead to the second film, Fierce Light: When Spirit Meets Action, which explores the relationship between spirituality, and activism. There has long been an artificial divide between these two important aspects of human society, and this film explores the power that is released when the two come together.
In Occupy Love I ask the question: how is the economic and ecological crises we are facing a great love story? I have gone beyond the word “spiritual” to the deeper, and more universal word, “Love.” The last lines of “Fierce Light” are, “another world is here, right now: listen.” On the sound track you can hear the rumblings of a volcano, the sleeping woman – who is now wide awake. Occupy Love explores this awakening, this revelation of our shared heart, and our shared oppression, and the process of working together to transform the bankrupt system of today into a world that works for all life. The Occupy movement, and the related movements that are erupting around the world, from the Arab Spring, to the European Summer, are all a part of this awakening. I recently showed Fierce Light at Occupy London and people were really struck by how the movie predicted the arising of Occupy. The films truly have their finger on the pulse of the times. In fact, Fierce Light was a little ahead of it’s time.
ALIVE MIND: From Desmond Tutu to Gandhi’s granddaughter, from Darryl Hannah to Congressman John Lewis and thousands of anonymous activists around the world, you show that the potential for ‘soul force’ exists. Fierce Light conveys the idea that another world is possible. Do you hope that it will actually contribute to unleash this potential for change?
VELCROW: I have seen Fierce Light transform people again and again. Real world change begins in our hearts, and a powerful documentary, done with art and the voices of those imbued with true soul force, has the ability to ignite and inspire us to become the change we want to see in the world. My films are intended to be both a reflection of the heart of the times, and a catalyst, fanning the flames of love.
ALIVE MIND: Besides being profoundly meaningful and inspired, Fierce Light is an extremely beautiful documentary, in which graceful glimpses of natural light are recurrent patterns. What part does the image play in your filmmaking in general and in Fierce Light in particular?
VELCROW RIPPER: Image, and sound – the language of cinema – has the ability to move us as true art can, at a level beyond only cognition, to the soul level, the heart level, to our deepest core. There are many great films out there that move us intellectually, there are great films out there that inspire our outrage, but what keeps me going is the excitement and inspiration I get from capturing the depths of the times with my camera, editing and sound design. I aim to create an immersive, heart opening, transformative experience. And when you watch my films, if you aren’t in a theatre, please use headphones or good speakers! The sound is very important – sound has a special way of going beyond the intellect. Don’t get me wrong – the intellectual aspect is also very important. What excites me is an integral experience that reaches the full spectrum of the human- heart, mind, body, and shadow. It’s all part of us, and when any part is left out you feel a lack. Non-literal images have a way of reaching a broader range than the same old same old “say apple see apple” approach of conventional documentary production. I actually come out of an experimental film background, so the imagery of my docs reflect my early, utterly liberated approach to filmmaking. Documentary imposes it’s own constraints, but I am always pushing at the edge of those limits.
ALIVE MIND Commenting on the protest that spurred in Quebec City in 2004 against the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas, you are asking “What would I do if I did not have a camera in my hands? Would I want to pick up a rock and throw it right back at these dehumanized Plexiglass faces?” What stance do you adopt when you shoot in the midst of demonstrations? Does being an engaged filmmaker mean taking a step back from neutrality in those situations?
VELCROW RIPPER I don’t believe in neutrality. That comment, which was a rhetorical question, was answered by the film: I would do what Carly Stasko does at that moment – she dances. My response to repression, violence and corporate dominance is to be as contrasting to that as possible – liberated, non-violent, and creative. That is the way to transform violence, not by speaking it’s language back at it. Neutral? Not in the slightest. I am part of the movements I document, I come from the inside. The most biased of coverage is to be found in the mainstream media – they have such a narrow frame of reference, and have had a profoundly negative influence on global society, with their news bites, the fact that they are profit motivated and corporate dominated, and always focus in on the violence of any given situation without greater context. How many times have I seen reports of “violent protestors,” when in fact the protestors are peaceful, and it is the police that are violent. Or, as is sadly often the case, there are a few agitators (often police infiltrators) or angry young men, who create the violence, and a whole movement gets tarred with an ugly brush.
ALIVE MIND On Sept 17, 2011, at Zuccotti Park, the epicenter of Occupy Wall Street, you’ve asked a giant FDR dime, “How could the global crisis we are facing become a love story?’ You made a short-film out of it, entitled Summer of Change: Occupy Wall Street.
Have you been personally involved in the movement since then? What are your future plans?
VELCROW RIPPER I have fallen in love with the Occupy Movement. I was at Occupy Wall Street since day one, travelled to Occupy Oakland for their epic general strike and just returned from Spain, where I was filming with the Indignados, Egypt, where I was covering Tahrir Square and the Egyptian Revolution, and Occupy London. I was looking at the roots of the movement, tracing it back from the European summer, to the Arab Spring, and looking at where the movement has evolved. The film is now called “Occupy Love.” The original project, Evolve Love, may come out after, or will be integrated into this movie. Two years ago I asked writer Naomi Klein, “how could the crisis we are facing on the planet become a love story?” And she laughed, and said that her and I do the opposite – she points out how bad things are and I look for the love. Last week I saw her at an action and she gave me a big hug and said, “history has re-arranged itself to prove your thesis.”
The Occupy Movement, and the much bigger, and deeper global spirit of transformation from which it arises, is the love story I have been looking for, all my life. In Fierce Light I reference Paul Hawken, who in his book “Blessed Unrest”, talks about a global movement of movements that is emerging all over the world, what he calls “humanities immune response to a planet in crisis”, the largest movement in history. And the remarkable thing about that movement is that it is self organizing, and it didn’t even know that it existed. The Arab Spring, The European Summer, and now the Occupy Movement, is that movement standing up, looking around, and discovering itself. And right now, this is the greatest love story on earth. This movement is rooted in interdependence, and is the opposite of the selfish, lifeless, dog eat dog eat dog world promoted through the vast capital of the corporations. We need to do everything we can to nurture this evolving movement, our ever evolving global society, and keep it moving always in the direction of love, in the direction of life. Love is the movement. We are the 100%
Occupy Love has just launched an IndieGoGo campaign to help fund the completion of the film. This is a commmunity funded film – if we are to get it made, we need your help. Please support us if you can, or help out by sharing the link. Thanks!
Velcrow Ripper is an award-winning filmmaker with dozens of films and videos under his belt, including Scared Sacred, winner of the 2005 Genie (Canadian Academy Award) for best feature documentary, and Special Jury Prize at the Toronto International Film Festival. Bones of the Forest, his 1995 environmental medittion, won nine major film awards, including a Genie and best of the festival at Hot Docs. Ripper’s latest film is Fierce Light: When Spirit Meets Action. This award winning feature doc’s message of hope and change is delivered via magnificent visuals. He is currently shooting “Occupy Love” a feature documentary which chronicles the heart of the Occupy movement, and beyond.
This interview with Occupy Love director, Velcrow Ripper, was done by the folks at Alive Mind Cinema, the U.S. distributor of Ripper’s award winning feature doc, FIERCE LIGHT: When Spirit Meets Action. The original interview can be found here.