Producer/Director: Joel P. Engardio
The stereotype of Jehovah’s Witnesses: intimidating strangers who push their way into a home, to indoctrinate and convert. That image was called into question with the release of the documentary, Knocking.
Knocking delves deeply into the traditions and beliefs held by this religious sect. Writer/director Joel Engardio, a non-practicing Jehovah’s Witness, uses a number of cinematic vignettes to shine a positive light on the resolute way that Jehovah’s Witnesses stand up for their religious beliefs. One character in the film, a Holocaust survivor, lost his Jewish faith in the death camps. He found it afterwards in Jehovah, because he marveled at the bravery of those Witnesses in his camp that refused release when the Nazis demanded that they denounce their religion.
Engardio also focuses on the choice made by all Jehovah’s Witnesses to avoid any form of civic involvement; they do not vote, participate in war, or salute the flag. But they champion freedom of speech and other First Amendment rights, often through litigation. Jehovah’s Witnesses are behind close to sixty civil liberties cases that have come before the Supreme Court, and the Court has ruled in their favor in nearly all of those cases.
Knocking covers the history of this sect’s influence stretching back to the 1800s, and invites us into the lives of two Jehovah’s Witness households. In the first, the son is suffering from a potentially fatal liver disease. He refuses blood transfusions in accordance with Jehovah’s teachings, so donor father and son must undergo an experimental liver transplant without blood transfusions. In the second, the Holocaust survivor attempts to reconnect with his daughter, whom he ignored after converting from Judaism to the insular world of a Jehovah’s Witness.
Rabbi Michael Berenbaum, an expert in post-Holocaust evangelicalism, observes in the film that these fundamentalists act with decency and dignity. Knocking reveals that though Jehovah’s Witnesses are removed from the greater community, they contribute to society in their spirited defense of religious tolerance.
If you would like to explore films with similar themes, please click on キリスト教.