Please join us for KNOCKING, a PBS documentary that examines the surprising story of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They are moral conservatives who stay out of politics and the Culture War, but they won a record number of court cases expanding freedom for everyone. They refuse blood transfusions on religious grounds, but they embrace the science behind bloodless surgery. In Nazi Germany, they could fight for Hitler or go to the concentration camps. They chose the camps. Following two families who stand firm for their controversial and misunderstood Christian faith, KNOCKING reveals how one unlikely religion helped to shape history beyond the doorstep.
Knocking - 64 minutes
Synopsis: There are seven million Jehovah’s Witnesses in 230 countries worldwide. They spend 1.3 billion hours a year ministering door-to-door, making them one of America’s favorite punch lines. Despite their 130-plus-year history, this Christian group is still often derided and misunderstood. KNOCKING opens the door on Jehovah's Witnesses, revealing how they have impacted society in ways far greater and more surprising than the spreading of their faith.
While protecting their own rights, Jehovah’s Witnesses have won a record number of U.S. Supreme Court cases, expanding freedoms for all Americans. In Nazi Germany, they chose non-violence, landing them in the concentration camps rather than fighting for Hitler. They refuse blood transfusions on religious grounds, yet support the science of bloodless medicine. They are moral conservatives who stay out of politics. They attempt to persuade, but not impose their beliefs.
KNOCKING follows two Jehovah’s Witness families who stand firm for their controversial faith. Joseph Kempler was born a Polish Jew, but has been a Jehovah’s Witness for nearly half a century. As the survivor of six concentration camps, he cursed God for allowing the Holocaust. After Joseph immigrated to the United States as a young man, a pair of Jehovah's Witnesses knocked on his door. He found a renewed purpose for God in their teachings and eventually converted. Joseph still embraces his Jewish heritage, and part of his family remains religiously Jewish while the rest follow the tenets of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In KNOCKING, both sides of Joseph's family accompany him to Austria and Poland to visit the concentration camps where Joseph was imprisoned as a teenager.
Raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, Seth Thomas lives in suburban Dallas. A genetic disorder has ravaged his liver and at 23, he requires a transplant to survive. He has found a live-donor match with his father, who can give half of his liver to Seth. But neither will accept a blood transfusion, which goes against their beliefs. Surgeons at Baylor Medical Center in Texas turned the Thomas family down for treatment. But the University of Southern California Hospital in Los Angeles is willing to operate. Some members of the Thomas family are not Jehovah’s Witnesses and oppose the religion’s stand on blood, agreeing with the doctors who say this procedure is too risky.
Narrated by filmmaker Joel P. Engardio, who was raised in a Witness household but chose not to join the religion, KNOCKING offers Jehovah’s Witnesses as one example of how groups with increasingly polarizing religious and social views can peacefully coexist.
About the Producers:
Joel P. Engardio received the 2000 National Press Foundation award for science writing. In 2003, he was named best opinion writer by the Northern California Society of Professional Journalists. He was a finalist for the University of Missouri's 1999 national lifestyle writing awards in multicultural journalism. Engardio has written for the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Weekly, Newsweek, Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor and P.O.V. magazine. In television, Engardio worked as an associate producer for ABC News at the newsmagazine 20/20 and the network's documentary unit, Turning Point. Engardio also consults as a media and communications strategist for the American Civil Liberties Union. He graduated from Michigan State University, majoring in journalism and history. Engardio was born and raised in Saginaw, Michigan where his mom was the only member of a large Italian Catholic family to become one of Jehovah's Witnesses. Engardio currently lives in San Francisco.
Tom Shepard produced and directed SCOUT'S HONOR, an ITVS-funded documentary that won the Audience Award for Best Documentary and Freedom of Expression Award at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival, as well as several other awards including Grand Prize at the 2001 USA Film Festival. SCOUT'S HONOR broadcast nationally on the PBS series P.O.V. Previously, Shepard worked as an editor at National Public Radio for Linda Wertheimer and the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. At NPR, he co-produced Listening to America, an audio documentary on the history of public radio in America, based on Linda Wertheimer's book by the same name. Shepard graduated from Stanford University where he majored in biology and film. He is currently directing a new film about child geniuses and science education. Shepard lives in San Francisco.
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