Unexpected Peace

Our recent graduate, Jonathan Bornman, is becoming a filmmaker.  Why?  Let’s hear his story.

I’m a new filmmaker! Upon completing a PhD in 2021, I formed Dove Tale Productions to make a documentary film with the working title Unexpected Peace: In search of the common good.

We live in a fear-filled, violent and dangerous world. Most often we are told the solution is to meet violence with even greater violence: stronger armies, more guns, and superheroes. I want to offer people new stories by which to live, stories of people who chose nonviolent responses to extreme violence. This is the peacemaking way of Jesus. It is important to remember that there are others with ethical commitments to nonviolence. My dissertation highlighted one such community, the Muridiyya.

Teaming up with experienced filmmaker and director Michael Hostetler and award-winning cinematographer Ehab Assal, we will tell three surprising stories with unexpected responses to violent events. The documentary follows my quest as a social anthropologist for practical alternatives to violence in today’s polarized world.

The principal story of the documentary comes from Solo (Surakarta), Indonesia where at the turn of the millennium, Muslim-Christian conflict rocked the landscape of Indonesia. Thousands lost their lives in violent confrontations. At the height of the conflict, Paulus Hartono, the pastor of a Christian congregation, and Yanni Rusmanto, commander of an Islamic militia, developed a friendship. A dynamic network of Muslim and Christian leaders helped them break the cycle of violence in their city, challenging deeply rooted anti-Islamic and anti-Christian stereotypes.

The storytelling structure of the documentary follows three stories in three different contexts giving depth to the search for alternatives to violence. First, the Nickel Mines Amish schoolhouse shooting is a radical forgiveness story. Second, the Sufi Muslim Muridiyya in Harlem follow an ethical commitment to nonviolence in the face of aggression and murder. The two stories, one Christian and one Muslim, give viewers an onramp to the major story of interfaith peace building in Indonesia.

Unexpected Peace has a budget of $323K. After more than two years of research and story development we moved into pre-production in February 2022, recording a proof of concept In Search of Peace: A Palestinian perspective on nonviolent conflict resolution. In May 2022, the director and I did pre-production trips to Harlem, NY and Solo, Indonesia. We are currently completing our fundraising drive and hope to start production at the end of July 2022.


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