August Documentary: “Risking Light”

Documentary Explores Uplifting Stories of Resilience and the Difficult Work of Forgiving the Unforgivable.

A mother grieves a murdered son in Minneapolis. A Cambodian youth is forced into slave labor. An Australian toddler is torn from her loving family in the name of government-sanctioned genocide. These were the events that plunged Mary Johnson, Kilong Ung, and Debra Hocking into a world filled with unimaginable trauma and loss. Yet each one not only survived but thrived. How did their journey through grief bring them to profound compassion? How did they find it in their hearts to forgive the unforgivable?

Risking Light is a thought-provoking documentary that dares to ask, “What would the world be like if we all forgave one another?” The public is invited to a free screening of the film on Saturday, August 10, 1:30 p.m., at Niles Discovery Church, 36600 Niles Blvd., Fremont. A discussion will follow the screening.

Produced, written, and directed by Emmy-award winner Dawn Mikkelson, Risking Light takes and international, multi-cultural look at how people cope with the tragedy of the past and move forward to create fulfilling lives. The ability to forgive, but not forget, forges powerful bonds, emotional healing and community action that extends beyond the personal to universal truths that benefit us all.

Shot on location in Minnesota, Cambodia, and the Tasmanian region in Australia, Risking Light began generating attention in 2011, when the short video about Mary Johnson and O’shea Isreal’s story went viral. In 1993, Johnson’s son Laramiun Byrd was murdered by then 16-year-old Israel in Minneapolis. Johnson carried around pain and hatred toward Israel – until she visited him in prison. Their story brought restorative justice to light, and along with it, the difficult question of how do we talk with one another when egregious acts have occurred? How do we overcome personal pain to reach healing? Risking Light goes deeper into the stories than broadcast journalism allows, revealing insights that stay with the audience long after the credits roll.

The Second Saturday Documentary Series is co-sponsored by Niles Community Church and the San Jose Peace and Justice Center. Learn more about the series at

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