Helen Keller’s Spiritual Life and Legacy
Directed and produced by Penny Price
Narrated by James Naughton
This 57-minute DVD explores the specific ideas and visionary theology that fired Helen Keller’s long and productive life of triumphant accomplishment in the face of all odds. Read more
DVD, 57 minutes
Buy the DVDDVD $24.95
This state-of-the-art documentary combines archival footage, interviews, stills, and dramatic reenactments to explore one of the most significant and defining factors in the life of Helen Keller, whom Time chose as one of the most influential people of the twentieth century: the lifelong spiritual inspiration she derived from her encounter with the writings of the visionary sage and philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg.
John Hitz, consul general of Switzerland to the United States, superintendent of the Volta Bureau, and friend of Alexander Graham Bell, befriended the teenage Helen and created a Braille translation of Swedenborg’s Heaven and Hell for her, setting in motion a regeneration in her spiritual life that was to have a monumental impact on the world at large.
In 1927, Keller published My Religion, her affirmation of the effect of Swedenborg’s message in her life. “Swedenborg does such good to me,” she once attested, “that I long to scatter his teachings among men and women wherever I go.”
This 57-minute DVD explores the specific ideas and visionary theology that fired Helen Keller’s long and productive life of triumphant accomplishment in the face of all odds and her tireless philanthropic efforts to improve the lives of the less fortunate throughout the world.
Rendered deaf and blind from illness at the age of nineteen months, Helen Keller is known to most as the inspiring figure played by Patty Duke in the 1962 film The Miracle Worker, who would later become a writer, idealist, and social activist who changed the definition of what it meant to be disabled. Filmmaker Penny Price’s documentary Shining Soul covers the familiar territory of how Annie Sullivan was brought to teach Keller and the two were “joined by their flying fingers,” becoming lifelong companions. Less well-known is the fact that while she was a young adult, Keller discovered and was deeply moved by the writings of religious philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg, particularly his vision of a loving God and insistence on living a life of usefulness and sharing with others in order to achieve personal fulfillment.
The program illustrates how Keller’s spirituality enabled her to overcome the inevitable grief and disappointments encountered in her life, noting her surprising visual imagination, profound love of language, and ability to experience the presence of God in all things. Since this is sponsored by the Swedenborg Foundation, the program features extensive coverage of Keller’s religious views; however, it’s also enriched by rare old photos and film clips of Keller and Sullivan, and testimony from scholars (including writer Jean Houston) and disabled interviewees (including Carl Augosto, the first blind man to climb Mt. Everest) who cite Keller as a shining example of a woman who embraced her abilities over her disabilities, enabling her to appreciate “life in all its moments.” Recommended. Three stars.
Houston WorldFest Remi Award — Gold, 2006
Telly Award Winner — 2nd place, 2006
US / International Film and Video Festival — Bronze, 2006
New York International Independent Film Festival — Best Directors Award in Short Film
Broadcast on PBS TV stations