As America marked the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, community members in Eastport and beyond were noting the date as another anniversary, too - one centered on peace.
The international peace movement celebrated Monday as 100 years of Mohandas Gandhi's philosophy of peaceful resistance and using nonviolent means to strive for justice.
The 1982 movie "Gandhi" traces the Indian leader's life. It is being shown this month at a handful of gatherings in the area, from St. Andrews, New Brunswick, to Machias.
The film was shown Sunday evening in Eastport. Its next local showing will be at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Calais at the Unobskey School.
The showings are free, with a cookie jar available for donations.
The local showings of the film coincide with a nationally organized effort Monday that saw "Gandhi" screenings at 32 sites around the United States.
The local effort to honor Gandhi and his message took hold after the Bangor Daily News on Sept. 1 printed an op-ed piece by Chicago columnist Robert Koehler, "Twenty Gandhis."
The reference to 20 Gandhis came from a middle school classroom in New York, where children surmised that the planet's 6 billion people could never all be convinced to live nonviolently.
"We don't need 6 billion Gandhis," the teacher responded. "We need 20 Gandhis."
In Eastport, resident Linda Godfrey thought about the 20 Gandhis concept. Acknowledging the national screenings, she asked Jon Bragdon of the Northern Lights Film Society to set up a local showing of "Gandhi."
That happened on Sunday, albeit on short notice. About 20 people turned up. The youngest was 9 years old, and the oldest was close to 90, Bragdon said Monday.
The film showed how on Sept. 11, 1906, Gandhi, then a little-known lawyer working in South Africa, joined a meeting of fellow Indians in a Johannesburg theater to protest a proposed law that would force Indians to carry identity documents and be fingerprinted.
Known to the people of India as "Mahatma" or "Great Soul," Gandhi became the famed leader of India's revolts against the British through nonviolent protests.
"Everybody watched raptly, even though the movie's length is challenging," said Bragdon, who has been associated with the Eastport-based film group since its start in 1985.
The movie runs three hours eight minutes.
Bragdon hopes the film will be shown later this month to other audiences in the area. The Calais showing, through the new St. Croix River Valley Film Society, is the only date confirmed so far.
Showings also may take place in St. Andrews, Trescott (at the Cobscook Community Learning Center) and in Machias (at the Machias Valley Grange through the Beehive Collective).
A short discussion was held after the film in Eastport. The audience came up with a short list of newsmakers who could be considered modern-day Gandhis, each with the potential to move people.
Columnist Molly Ivins, former Maine Sen. George J. Mitchell, journalist Bill Moyers and television celebrity Oprah Winfrey were suggested.
"The idea was to get us thinking who could do for our situation today what Gandhi did 100 years ago for his community and his country," said Nancy Asante of Perry, who watched the film.
"He galvanized 300 million people. Robert Koehler is a visionary [to recognize Gandhi 100 years later]. We need more people like him to be thinking, and to get us thinking, who might our Gandhis be."
Koehler wrote in his essay on Sept. 1: "As the fifth anniversary of 9/11 approaches, many of the nation's values - tolerance, forgiveness, personal freedom, perhaps even courage itself - remain trapped in the wreckage.
"It may take another anniversary, another 9/11 - [Gandhi's] Sept. 11, 1906, to be precise - simply to remind us of what lies buried beneath the fear and cynicism, the ignorance and politics; and, even more importantly, to wake us up to the urgency of reclaiming those values and healing as a nation."
For information on more "Gandhi" showings as they are scheduled Down East, contact Jon Bragdon at 853-2374.
© Copyright 2006 Bangor Daily News