A Force More Powerful is a 1999 feature-length documentary film and a 2000 PBS series that describes six successful 20th century nonviolent movements, including Mohandas Gandhi’s leadership of the Indian Independence movement, the American civil rights movement, the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, the Danish resistance to Nazi Occupation, the Solidarity movement in Communist Poland, and the Chilean democracy movement to remove military dictator Augusto Pinochet.
Written and directed by Steve York with support from the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Albert Einstein Institution, the film played in festivals worldwide and was broadcast in the United States on PBS in September 2000. It was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Historical Program. The television series also includes a companion book by the same name, which was authored by co-executive producer Jack DuVall and series editor and principal content provider Peter Ackerman.
The series is now available for instant viewing or DVD purchase on Amazon. Part One explores how Gandhi effectively employed civil disobedience to free India from British colonial occupation; how black college students used nonviolent struggle for civil rights in Nashville, TN; and how a consumer boycott in South Africa awakened whites to black grievances and weakened business support for apartheid. Part Two reveals how, in 1940, Danish citizens and government officials used “resistance disguised as collaboration” to defy Nazi Occupation and protect Denmark’s 7,000 thousand Jews; how, in 1980, striking workers in Poland won the right to organize in defiance of the Community Party; and how, in 1983, Chilean workers initiated a wave of nonviolent protests that eventually brought down the military dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.
Fambul Tok, a film that has turned into a movement, documents the community-led peace-building and reconciliation process under way in Sierra Leone after a bloody 11-year civil war. “Fambul tok” is Krio for “family talk,” which is the essence of the reconciliation work. People who have been harmed by violence gather around a bonfire to tell their stories, and those who have perpetrated violence seek forgiveness–which is up to the victims to give or withhold. The process involves village-wide reconciliation ceremonies and follow-up community building activities, which are chosen and directed by the communities themselves.
John Caulker is the founder Fambul Tok International, which facilitates this reconciliation work–a work that has spread across the globe and, as shown in a follow-up video, has even helped American middle school school students resolve conflicts and come together in ways they’d never experienced before.
Journalist Sara Terry directed the movie, which focuses on three stories at which Caulker and his organization facilitate fambul toks. The film opens at a bonfire in Foendor, a village in Sierra Leone. A young woman named Esther declares that she was raped at the age of 12 by fifteen men. She identifies one of the men as Joseph, her uncle. Joseph admits to the rape, but says that he was forced by rebels under threat of death. Next, a man named Sahr similarly confronts his former friend Nyumah. When rebel forces accosted the men 17 years earlier, Sahr and Nyumah were boys. The rebels attempted to force Sahr to kill his own father. When Sahr refused, the rebels forced Nyumah to severely beat Sahr and to slash the throat of Sahr’s father. Nyumah and Sahr reconcile after Nyumah admits to his actions and asks for forgiveness.
Much of the film focuses on the search for a man named Tamba Joe and his commander during the war, Captain Mohamed Savage. Tamba Joe was a native son who joined rebel forces during the war and committed violent acts against members of his community. A villager says that Tamba Joe killed and beheaded 17 members of his family. Mohamed Savage, nicknamed “Mr. Die,” initially denied being the person responsible for the murders and violence in Foendor. Bodies of those killed during the war were thrown into the nearby “Savage Pit.” Savage later admits to his role in the violence and plans to return to for a fambul tok, but changes his mind when he learns he could risk prosecution. In an online Epilogue, Savage does return and seek forgiveness from his community.
The film is almost breathtaking in the Sierra Leonians’ capacity and willingness to forgive acts one would think unforgivable. To visit the website and see that the work of reconciliation not only continues in Sierra Leone, but is spreading around the world, is truly inspirational.
Ground Operations is another, previously recommended, film about exchanging weapons for plows, literally. Dulanie La Barre Ellis explores veterans finding life-affirming work in agriculture post-deployment.