“Gandhi’s Gift,” a new documentary about the father of modern-day India, will be unwrapped in Bakersfield before any other city gets a peek, at a free screening at Maya Cinemas on Sunday.
Major funding for the documentary came from the Naina and Ravi Patel Foundation, headquartered in Bakersfield. The filmmakers will introduce the Maya screening and answer questions at the end of the documentary, before hitting the road, touring the film to major cities throughout the United States.
Film producer Cynthia Lukas and director Kell Kearns explore the icon of nonviolence and peace, focusing on the last four years of Gandhi’s life. Many of the details, according to the filmmakers, were previously known only to scholars.
In a telephone interview from her Santa Fe, N.M., home, Lukas said “Gandhi’s Gift” took about four to five years to make.
“We filmed in South Africa, the United Kingdom and three times in India … at all the important sites of Gandhi’s life. One of the fascinating aspects of making this film has been meeting those who are living and teaching Gandhian principles.”
One principal commentator in the film is Gandhi’s grandson Rajmohan Gandhi. He is now an emeritus professor at the University of Illinois and currently lives in India.
“Gandhi’s grandson provides vivid memories of his grandfather’s final days,” Lukas said.
The filmmakers chose to focus on the leader’s last four years because historians believe that is when Gandhi’s moral fortitude and dedication to peace were tested most.
“‘Gandhi’s Gift’ shows him at the end of his life, at the brink of attaining his lifelong goal of British independence,” Lukas said. “His heart is broken by the partition of India and the terrible communal violence.”
Some historians estimate that more than a million people had been killed in the civil war between Hindus and Muslims as Pakistan split off from the new India.
Though Gandhi’s dedication to nonviolence never wavered, his health was fragile. Gandhi spent his last months walking, campaigning, praying and fasting for an end to the violence, and at the time of his death, was planning to go to Pakistan on a mission of peace.
“The documentary explains that although he had led masses in nonviolent marches, now at the age of 74, Gandhi now walked alone and barefoot from village to village.”
“Gandhi’s Gift” uses rare archival photographs and new footage combined with commentary by historians and those who knew him. Included as commentators are Gandhi experts James Douglass, activist and one of the founders of “The Ground Zero for Nonviolent Action” and Dr. Vandana Shiva, a biologist/environmentalist.
Among Kearns’ other documentaries are “In Remembrance of Martin,” the PBS biography of Martin Luther King, commissioned by Coretta Scott King for the first anniversary of the federal King holiday. Lukas and Kearns also have done “Rumi Returning,” a biography of the acclaimed Sufi poet, filmed on location in Turkey at his shrine; and “Globalized Soul” about the Parliament of World’s Religions in Melbourne, Australia, featuring the Dalai Lama, Sister Joan Chittister and Rabbi Michael Lerner.
Lukas concluded the interview by passing long her favorite Gandhi quote:
“I feel in the innermost recesses of my heart that the world is sick unto death of blood spilling. The world is seeking a way out and I flatter myself with the belief that perhaps it will be a privilege of the ancient land of India to show that way out to the hungering world.”
Lukas added: “His gift is more crucial for humanity now than even when he walked the earth. It’s timely and fitting that Gandhi’s teaching and beliefs be introduced to the 21st century.”