3 Superheroes of Peace use the 5 Powers of Faith, Diligence, Mindfulness, Concentration and Insight to change the course of world history and inspire millions around the world. Planting seeds of peace in the deep mud of war.
The 5 Powers addresses timeless, yet contemporary issues, weaving powerfully illustrated comic book animation, historic documents and modern film footage into an entertaining, inspiring, heart- touching story.
Through the experiences of the films protagonists; Alfred Hassler, an American anti-war superhero, Vietnamese peace activist Sister Chan Khong and Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, whom Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967, the audience is confronted with a variety of challenging and complex human rights issues. Self-immolation, conscientious objection, nonviolent resistance, loss, suffering, unwavering compassion and hope.
One of the film’s big surprises is the largely unknown comic book created by Alfred Hassler that turned Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr, into a Superhero.
First published in December 1957 by the Fellowship of Reconciliation, it went unnoticed by the mainstream comic book industry, but spread like wildfire among civil rights groups, churches, and schools, helping to mobilize a generation to join the global fight for equality - nonviolently.
Although today’s pop culture landscape is riddled with innumerable retellings of superhero mythology in film, television, video games and graphic novels, the comic books that represent the source material for some of the most iconic characters today were not always treated as a legitimate form of literature.
Throughout the 20th century, comic books were often consider somewhat “subversive,” a harmless rebellion from parental authority and educational approvals.
Even if the material may not have always had an overtly subversive message, as cultural objects comic books were not mainstream. The most impactful comic books were an eruption. They contained irrational pressure on the status quo. They begged readers to see things differently.
So it should come as no surprise that this was the medium of choice in the creation of The Martin Luther King Jr, Montgomery Story, a 16-page comic that tells the simple but revolutionary account of the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott, in which Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and 50,000 others used the power of nonviolence to battle segregation on city buses - and won.
The idea itself was groundbreaking. Rarely does one think of a comic book as an important tool in the struggle for civil rights, but this comic book has been quietly changing the course of history around the world for over 50 years.
The 5 Powers narrative looks at Alfred Hassler’s life through the eyes of Vietnamese Buddhism and portrays him as an American Bodhisattva—an enlightened heroic figure, committed to exercising compassion for all living beings. His journey forms the archetypical origin story of our hero, exemplified by shared episodes from the true accounts in the lives of Thich Nhat Hanh, Sister Chan Khong and Hassler himself.
The formative experiences of these characters, as they meet and collaborate in the turbulent 1960s, alongside figures like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Buddhist leader Thich Tri Quang, are framed within scenes at Hassler’s bedside, as his condition worsens in the hours before his death in June of 1991: A scene which causes the audience to reflect on their loved ones who were also facing death.
Viewers will be also be surprised to learn that in 1970, Thich Nhat Hanh and Alfred Hassler initiated the first large international meeting on the environment called Dai Dong, or “Great Togetherness.” Dai Dong was a groundbreaking environmental initiative that brought scientists, academics and peace activists together, linking the issues of war, environmental problems and poverty. The initiative produced The “Menton Statement”, which was signed by more than 5,000 scientists from around the world.
The film uses the dramaturgical structure of a classic documentary, woven together with comic book animation, its narrative unfolding through recurring symbols and themes pertinent to the principles and ideals of its heroes.
The film also points to the fact that nonviolent movements are not outside of the realm of violence, nor out of touch with reality, but are situated beyond violence, giving practitioners a more powerful tool than arms and weaponry.
As the film tells a story of the seemingly unstoppable escalation of violence, it simultaneously redefines a traditional dramatic structure: there is no good or bad, no white or black. There is only compassion and suffering.
The realization of this ultimate truth has the power to unite us - each with the other and with all who have courageously fought for peace. The story ends with a call to action, an invitation to the viewer to become a hero in his or her own life.
We hope that this film will challenge the traditional notion of ‘the hero’ and what constitutes heroic action, helping the viewer to discover the hidden hero inside and outside of themselves.