The profound question of forgiveness is the central theme of a production by three Portadown film makers that took them into the heart of the Amish community in America who live their lives in tune with the 18th century Christian principles. No cars, TVs, electricity, and the simple clothes of their forebears.
The thought-provoking full-length film ‘A Step Too Far?’ (75 minutes) was created by Paul Moorehead (director) his wife Marina (presenter) and Thomas Glass (cameraman and editor) of LJHS-tv.
It will have its premiere at Craigavon Civic Centre on Thursday September 12 at 7.30pm. Admission is free and everyone is welcome.
The most powerful message in the film centres focuses on the infamous massacre of Amish schoolchildren by gunman Charles Roberts in West Nickel Mines School in October 2006. Roberts marched 10 girls of primary school age out of the single-room schoolhouse and shot them all - five survived - and then turned the gun on himself.
Forgiveness was the reaction of the Amish people of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the schoolhouse was torn down and replaced with New Hope School at another location.
Said Paul Moorehead, “Such was their forgiveness that Roberts’ mother goes every Thursday night to comfort the one of the five survivors who did not recover physically from the shooting and is welcomed by the Amish community.”
Another act of forgiveness and friendship surrounds a man who fell asleep at the wheel of a car and killed an eight-year-old Amish child - he became firm friends with the family.
It would be easy to misread the situation,” said Marina. “The Amish don’t find it any easier than anyone else to forgive, but it’s in their Christian psyche and they get on with their lives.
“This came through strongly as we filmed in the Lancaster County.”
None of the Amish people go on the record - film or sound - in any media (that’s also against their principles).
Many of the interviews are conducted with leading academics on the Amish culture at the local colleges and universities - like Professor Donald Kraybill, who will be visiting Craigavon in the near future, Professor David Weaver-Zercher, and counsellor and author Jonas Beiler.
“We spoke to Amish family ‘in camera’,” said Paul. “They don’t see themselves as a perfect people - they aren’t - but they are absolutely convinced that forgiveness, whether it is sought or not, is the only positive way forward for victims and families.”
Nor does the film focus exclusively on the Amish community.
They also included a study of a killer in Lancaster who murdered his wife, showed no remorse and was forgiven by his brother-in-law.
Closer to home, the film features Alan McBride whose wife and father-in-law were murdered in the Shankill Bombing in October 1993. Alan explains he can’t forgive, but has moved on.
“The film isn’t judgemental,” said Paul. “It is designed for discussion, and we believe it has a powerful message for Northern Ireland.”
LJHS-tv has been in involved in many projects over the five years of its existence, from broadcasting live on website the European Pipe Band Championships, explaining its activities on ‘Blue Peter’ (BBC), on nature studies, the ‘Oh Yea’ project from Belfast Cathedral Quarter and many more.
Their last film - ‘Before My Time’ (40 minutes) - looked at the NI Troubles, interviewing the diverse sides, and gained a nomination in the ‘Learning On-screen Awards’ of the British Film and Video Council.
And the next is particularly exciting which will see the team back in America looking at the legacy of civil rights legend Martin Luther King,
This year is the 50th anniversary of his iconic ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, and LJHS-tv will include in the documentary the friend who was with him when he was assassinated in April 1968, Rev Sam Kyles.
“That will be another great challenge to us,” said Paul. “But right now, we want as many as possible to attend the ‘A Step Too Far?’ premiere and join in the debate.”
The film was financed by the ‘Peace III Southern Partnership’ of the European Union.