Have you ever been so severely wronged that you found yourself at a complete loss of how to even comprehend forgiveness? Something so hurtful that all you could feel was bitterness and anger?
In director Lekha Singh’s fiercely dramatic, yet undeniably inspiring documentary, Beyond Right & Wrong: Stories of Forgiveness and Justice, she explores the process of forgiveness through the scope of some of the world’s most devastating conflicts.
In the film we see individuals come face to face with the very people that took their loved ones away forever. Stories range from Northern Ireland, to the disputed land between Israel and Palestine, and lastly the Rwandan genocide.
What remains singular among these terrible incidents is not the justice served or severity of the atrocity, but rather the level of dialogue and discourse reached between both perpetrator and victim.
This films transcends beyond who is right, who is wrong, who is justified, who feels justice served, touching at the core of the one thing we all share beyond personal point of view, our humanity.
I had the chance to speak with Lekha about the inspiration behind the film and what she hopes to inspire in others.
DANIEL JENKS: What inspired you to explore forgiveness as a subject?
LEKHA SINGH: In Rwanda, I met many women whose children were murdered during the genocide of 1994. I was astonished that they could talk with and even share a soda with the murderers. I couldn’t understand how that type of forgiveness was even possible. Whether their forgiveness was real or not. This film is my exploration into that forgiveness. And I didn’t want the film just to be about Rwanda, so we explored forgiveness and justice through conflicts in Israel & Palestine and Northern Ireland as well.
DJ: What did you discover about forgiveness when people move beyond themselves and their internal struggles?
LS: The film isn’t just about forgiveness; it’s about the tension that exists between fighting for justice and moving on to forgiveness. I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive.
I’ve been working on this project for 10 years. If you asked me to define forgiveness, after all this, I still wouldn’t be able to because there are so many different ways to define it. I’ve heard people say that forgiveness is “giving up hope of a perfect past.”
In the film, I try to show the individual process of forgiveness and that everybody has a different process, but the fact that people can engage in such dialogue is what’s magnificent.
DJ: Can you briefly describe what you learned about the path to forgiveness?
LS: I think they’re all very similar although they meander here and there. I think breaking the silence between opposing sides is a big thing. Sharing each other’s story seemed to be a threshold that needed to be bridged before people could begin to move on.
DJ: What inspired you to choose each subject in your film?
LS: When I started visiting these places and asking about forgiveness, people just opened up to me. Everyone had a story to tell, and they wanted someone to witness the telling. The difficult part was deciding which stories to finally include. I ended up with 300 hours of footage! In the end, we chose stories that revealed parallels between people in different places and situations. For example, we chose the stories of two fathers in Israel and Palestine, who had both lost their daughters, because they are on opposite sides of the wall yet they share the same experience.
DJ: Can you tell us your personal mission or mantra that kept you going when obstacles arose during the making of this film?
LS: The film did weigh on me. I didn’t have any specific mantra that kept me going, I would definitely take breaks when I needed to. But thinking about the subject always drew me back. In the darkest of places in humanity, you find lightest parts as well. I tried to focus more on the present healing than the past horror.
DJ: What is your goal in sharing these stories?
LS: My goal is to start the conversation where it still hasn’t begun. We have a goal of getting one million unique views on FilmRaise, where you can watch the film for free, the goal being to start one million conversations. This film has been shown to prisons, to sufferers of PTSD, and even hospice facilities and it really has a transformative effect. People come to me time and time again, almost every time I show the film and say things like, “I haven’t spoken to my father in fifteen years, but after seeing the film I want to start the process.”
For me, that type of conversation is my goal. I want to show that pure anger is not the only path.
To RSVP for the Washington, D.C. screening of Beyond Right & Wrong this Thursday, February 27th: CLICK HERE.
From a $500,000 prize pot made possible by generous donations from Operation Kids Foundation and Share the Mic, partnering charities will collect $500 for every 1000 viewers they secure for Beyond Right & Wrong.
Watch a brilliant new documentary, Beyond Right and Wrong, directed by Roger Spottiswoode and Lekha Singh. The film explores forgiveness in countries that have witnessed devastating conflict – Rwanda, Northern Ireland and Israel-Palestine. You can watch the entire film for free here. For every view, Operation Kids Foundation and Share the Mic will donate 50¢ to the charity of your choice.