I would be the first person to argue that travel and new experiences, meeting people different from ourselves, being open to alternative ideas and perspectives, are all essential to personal growth. But still, no matter where we go, I still find I prefer to spend my time with people who share common interests, common politics, and common life choices. It seems that no matter how independent or worldly we think we are, belonging, and having a community of some kind, matters to most people. Feeling accepted by a larger group affects our self-esteem, our confidence, maybe even our sanity. Belonging – in a high school cafeteria, a place of worship, or an ex-pat bar – makes us feel safe and understood, even invincible.
So if, as individuals, we thrive on a sense of belonging, then what does it mean for a community to find the place where it belongs?
A new documentary, From the Four Corners of the Earth, is exploring that question. The film, which is in the fundraising stage, will follow the Sefwi, a small, unique community in Ghana. The Sefwi people have practiced a religion for hundreds of years, a religion that was entirely different from the dominant religions practiced by other Ghanians. For most of their community’s history, the Sefwi believed that they were the only people who practiced their rituals and followed their beliefs. However, twenty years ago, the Sefwi discovered that the religion that they practiced was, in fact, Judaism.
The director of Four Corners, Gabrielle Zilkha, lived with the Sefwi community while she was volunteering in Ghana. While there, she realized that the Sefwi’s story, and their attempt to visit the birthplace of their religion, Israel, would make a compelling film. I became interested in this project because my friend, Jenn, is a producer, but I remain interested in the film because I find the story of this community fascinating.
Here are my questions for Four Corners: How did the Sefwi discover that they were practicing a global religion (with over 13 million followers, according to The Economist) and why does it matter? Will these people find acceptance, and a sense of belonging, when they get to Israel? And is a shared religion enough to connect us with people who may have entirely different values, political views, and ways of life?
What do you want to know about this documentary, or these people? Is belonging to a religious or cultural group important to you? Please share your thoughts! To learn more about Four Corners, and to help make the film become a reality, check out their fundraising page on Kickstarter