The Utah Valley University religious studies program welcomed filmmaker Helen Whitney for a screening of her newest film “Forgiveness: A Time to Love and a Time to Hate” on Feb. 11, followed by a question and answer portion.
On Friday, Feb. 12, a panel discussion took place in the UVU Library on Whitney’s groundbreaking documentary “The Mormons”. The panel included Daniel Peterson of BYU, Colleen McDannell of the University of Utah’s history department, UVU artist-in-residence Alex Caldiero and president of the Foundation for Interreligious Diplomacy Charles Randall Paul.
Whitney, an award-winning religious/political filmmaker has worked as a producer, director and writer since 1971. Whitney’s credits include “Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero” (PBS Frontline), “John Paul II: The Millennial Pope” (PBS Frontline) and “The Mormons” (PBS Frontline and American Experience). Whitney has received many awards including an Emmy, two Peabody Awards and an Academy Award nomination. Whitney is well known for her documentary “The Mormons” which aired on PBS in 2007. The film dispelled religious rumors, and examined misunderstood Mormon practices.
Whitney’s newest documentary “Forgiveness: A Time to Love and a Time to Hate,” is a two part documentary which discovers how groups and individuals explore the danger and power in human forgiveness. Part two of Whitney’s documentary examines genocide in Armenia in 1915, the German Holocaust during WWII and the Rwandan genocide in 1994. What surprised many people was the individual effects these genocides ravished upon families who lived with the affects of their actions passing their guilt and fear through generations and causing difficulty in letting go of past wrongs for perpetrators and victims.
“The Prophetic and the Personal” is the first topic of Whitney’s two hour documentary, which relates forgiveness back to the foundations of religion. The second topic, which was aired at UVU, is titled “From the Private to the Political” exploring the reasoning behind recent apologies and exonerations given to groups and individuals by governments.
The showing of part two of Whitney’s documentary was followed by a box lunch and question and answer session hosted by Brian Birch of UVU’s religious studies program. UVU students and faculty gathered to discover more about Helen Whitney and why she investigates these controversial topics of religion and government. One student asked, “Are your topic choices mainly to educate?” Whitney replied, “I must feel passionate about the subject first and the educational part comes later.” Whitney constantly stressed the idea of an awareness of world issues like genocide so that perpetrators, victims and observers may enter into conversation to promote eventual forgiveness and help people lead a healthier, happier existence.