UserpicSo Help Me God
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Posted by Mark Zhuravsky

You might think you know what to expect of this film on the basis of the title. Yet, shoehorning So Help Me God into the category of spiritual documentaries would not be quite right, as the film is a highly personal story of exploration, brisk yet thought-provoking, not to mention visually captivating. Our protagonist is one Simon Cole, a well-off man, happily married and seemingly economically unburdened. Simon however carries a load he regretfully cannot drop off his shoulders--he greatly longs for a connection to God. This is a presence Simon does not have in his life and he is driven to at the very least understand it.

As such, he strikes out on the journey that will be the subject of the documentary, done in collaboration with his two brothers Ben and Nigel Cole. With a background in commercials, the brothers bring a visually expressive eye to the proceedings, adding a new dimension of sight and sound that keeps the documentary from slipping into dry discussion. It helps that Simon is a personable and earnest interviewer who does not hesitate to bare his regrets and fears to the camera. The film also benefits from a variety of religious figureheads who share their opinions with a candid openness that echoes throughout the film.

This is an honest attempt to explore one man’s religious conundrum, yet Simon personifies those of us who have questioned their faith or lack thereof. He is earnest and steadfast, a narrator without a shadowy agenda to ridicule or challenge the beliefs of those he encounters and questions. He is burdened by his dilemma and seeks an answer to it in any way he knows how. The final scenes of Simon isolating himself to the desert for some serious soul-searching are among the most emotionally affecting in the film – you can see the exhaustion and difficulty to cope transcribed on Simon’s face. So Help Me God is his story, and it is an exhilarating one.

Elizabeth Sheldon, Christo and Jeanne-ClaudeBack from Silver Docs, where Albert Maysles was awarded the 2009 Guggenheim Lifetime Achievement Award. A fun time was had by all at the after-party with Al, Christo, Jeanne-Claude and the entire Maysles team basking in the limelight and enjoying the champagne.

UserpicNational Post Interview with Velcrow Ripper
Posted by Elizabeth

Q. Why is it important that this story be told?

A. My films always begin with something that is happening inside myself, but that I also see reflected in the world around me. I think people are starting to feel like they're coming to a dead end with the old models of creating change in the world, especially some of the forms of activism that are focused on what we're against, as opposed to what we're for, and that are anger-based. I definitely found that with myself, and so I discovered a new kind activism that has its roots in the attitudes of Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. You could call it compassionate activism or spiritual activism -- positive, celebrating life, and solution based.

Read full interview at National Post

Read Velcrow Ripper Blog at MyFilmBlog

fiercelight1.jpgInspirational Film Offered in Homes and on Mobile in Nationwide Launch from Alive Mind at

NEW YORK (MAY 4, 2009) - Beginning today, millions of people across the United States will be able to access the transformational documentary that captures the wave of Spiritual Activism exploding around the planet, and the powerful personalities who are igniting it on Video On Demand (VOD). Not yet available on DVD, Fierce Light is now accessible to viewers from the comfort of their homes or on the go at Available to all U.S households or mobile devices with a high-speed Internet connection, Fierce Light inspires viewers to embrace the transformational power of what Martin Luther King called "Love in Action," and what Gandhi called "Soul Force." Filmmaker Velcrow Ripper calls this uncompromisingly non-violent phenomenon Fierce Light-and attests that it is this very spirit that swept Barack Obama into the White House.

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By Chris Knight, National Post

You might expect the director of programming at Toronto’s Hot Docs film festival to have a fixed notion of what is and isn’t a documentary, but Sean Farnel, now in his fourth year in the job, says it’s a moving target.

“I’m becoming less of a purist about the form as I see filmmakers doing impressive things,” Farnel says. “This is a case where the term ‘non-fiction’ is better than ‘reality’ — whatever that is. Documentary as a non-fiction form has become very fluid in the last 10 years ... You see docs consistently pushing the form in new directions.”

Two popular, form-pushing films released last year illustrate his point. Waltz with Bashir, by Ari Folman, recreates the Israeli filmmaker’s memories of the 1982 war with Lebanon through animation. Guy Maddin’s My Winnipeg was part monologue, part travelogue and partly made up, though clearly even the imaginary parts of Manitoba’s capital are close to Maddin’s heart.

This year’s festival, which opens next Thursday with a screening of Jennifer Baichwal’s Act of God, includes a number of what Farnel calls “creative documentaries.”
Cooking History, about soldiers’ food during wartime, uses tableaux and elaborate reconstructions. Antoine, a Canadian film by Laura Bari, immerses the viewer in the universe of a blind five-year-old boy. Big River Man, which Farnel calls a “demi-documentary” in the festival’s program notes, “might be another example of walking the line between fiction and non-fiction to achieve what Werner Herzog would call poetic truth.”

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