Thursday, June 20, 2013
"An Uncommon Kindness: The Father Damien Story": service and sacrifice in the 19th century, when leprosy was prescient of AIDS
“An Uncommon Kindness: The Father Damien Story”, by Steven J. Castillo, is a touching story of 19th Century priest Father Damien De Veuster, a Belgian Catholic cleric who devoted his life to serving those suffering from leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) in quarantine on the small Hawaiian island of Molokai.
Eventually he would contact the disease himself, even though it is not very contagious. Nevertheless, people with the disease in those days were viewed as morally “unclean” and dangerous to the general population. The apparent parallel to AIDS and HIV starting in the 1980’s is chilling.
Robin Williams narrate the documentary, about 50 minutes, which has a lot of stills and is constructed somewhat in the style of Ken Burns. The music is by Keola Beamer. The film was originally produced in 2003 for Hawaiian public television.
Some of the film is shot in Belgium, where there was controversy as to where the priest should be buried.
It’s incredible when someone is so dedicated to service and poverty that he will take on the same risks as everyone else, of acquiring a malady or handicap, and share it with everyone else. But people in the military do that every day.
Compare to a PBS film about Carville, reviewed here July 29, 2011.
Wikipedia attribution link for NASA shot of Mokolai.