Laurier screens documentary on forgotten historical figure


On Thursday evening, Wilfrid Laurier University was the privileged location for a screening of The Frontier Gandhi: Badshah Khan, a Torch for Peace, the first documentary chronicling the life of Badshah Khan – a Muslim peacemaker born in what is now Pakistan.

Despite being a primary figure in the non-violent movement to oppose British rule from the 1920s through 1980s, organizing a peaceful army of 10,000, few know the story of Badshah Khan.

As the film suggests, for the most part Khan has been eclipsed by the branding of Gandhi – who was actually a close friend of his – as the figurehead of the non-violent peace movement.

“For me this is a story about love and a giant human spirit,” said the film’s director and daughter of Canadian theorist Marshall McLuhan T.C. McLuhan, during the discussion period following the screening at Laurier, which was co-sponsored by the Laurier Muslim Studies Option program, the Laurier Department of Global Studies and the Peace and Conflict Studies program at Conrad Grebel University College.

“They only come around every hundred years and he was only one of them,” she added about Badshah Khan.

The documentary – which recently screened to a sold out audience at the Lincoln Centre in New York and will be viewed at the United Nations for diplomats at the request of the Indian and Afghanistan ambassadors in early April – has been in production for over 20 years.

“I never thought in my wildest dreams I could hang in there and I never, ever thought that it would take so many years to make,” said McLuhan.

The film has already seen incredible success, having won the best documentary award at the Middle East International Film Festival in Abu Dhabi this past October.

McLuhan, joined at Laurier by the film’s primary editor Alex Shuper who has been working on the project with her for the past two years, explained that they are now on the film festival phase of the project and that it will be released on DVD this year.

The documentary was filmed in Afghanistan, Khyber Pass, Pakistan including NWFP, India, United States and Canada throughout the past two decades and includes both archival footage and incredible interviews with individuals such as Badshah Khan’s daughter and Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai.

“This whole journey is an educational one,” said McLuhan. “Now the picture is made and there’s something to show.”

Speaking of the process of making the film and the documentary itself, McLuhan noted that it is a “story, a life, a legacy of one mans beauty and inspiration.”

“When you’re open anything and all things are possible. This is one thing his legacy and life taught me,” said McLuhan.

“When you see something like this [documentary] you feel that all things are possible and [nothing] is that difficult….If nothing else this story offers hope.”

To read an interview with director T. C. McLuhan pick up Wednesday’s print edition of The Cord.

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