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Myth in Non-Fiction Films


On the opposite end of the mythological character spectrum we have Gandhi. Gandhi's primary ideological tool was non-violent protest, so although Gandhi and his followers experienced various forms of brutality against, Gandhi never donned a gladiator mask and sword to get his point across (although that would have been sweet).

The obvious and important difference between these two films is that Gandhi's life actually happened and the movie gives an accurate portrayal thereof. The thing that makes Gandhi so important is that it is a story of a relatively recent living person who experienced such an influential mythological journey that did not have to be contrived or exaggerated for the sake of the film. As Bill Campbell emphasized, we are all on a spiritual, mythological journey in life. Everyone experiences a battle between good and evil, yet so few experience it on such a socially significant stage as did Mahatma Gandhi.

Gandhi experiences racism in South Africa which acts as a kind of epiphany experience for him. Through his efforts Indians gain rights in South Africa, making Gandhi a national hero in his native India. Back home Gandhi selflessly leads a non-violent campaign against Great Britain in an effort to achieve Indian independence. Through numerous imprisonments and other acts of deterrence, Gandhi's resolve is not broken. He famously leads a group of peaceful protesters on a long march to the ocean as an illustration of India's boycott on Britain's salt tax. This is an act comparable to the well known biblical exodus lead by Moses to free the Hebrew people. Gandhi's march was specifically against a salt monopoly held by the oppressive British government, but its ramifications were for the freedom of the Indian people.

The battle of good and evil persists, even when India obtains its freedom, as domestic dispute between religious groups results from the vacant authority atop India's government. Not good and evil as in either the Muslim or Hindu populations were one or the other, but that India's new independence meant civil war, and went against everything Gandhi believed in.

Ultimately Gandhi dies a martyr's death - up unto his assassination trying to bring peace between Indian and newly-formed Pakistani governments. His life played a major role in the battle for civil rights across the globe, even for Martin Luther King Jr.'s demonstrations in the U.S. The legend and myth of Gandhi's life will forever be linked and cited in struggles for civil rights. You might consider him the founder of a religion. Not in the formal sense, but in his strict belief in and adherence to non-violence as a social and political tool.

Lastly, there are a few comparisons between him and Jesus Christ. Gandhi often deprived himself of food for the sake of purifying himself, but also as a tool of protest. Jesus famously starves himself in the desert to become closer to God and remove temptation from his life. One other general analogy is in the way Gandhi fought against the caste-established inequality and mistreatment of those who were considered "untouchables". Similarly, Jesus called the lower classes, physically disabled, and otherwise socially outcast all as his people. There is a general theme in most religions for the equal treatment and unrestricted love for all people. Gandhi's ideology proved no different and he is undoubtedly a moral hero for the ages.

Gandhi: the man, the myth, the legend.