R.I. director captures humanity and beauty of life in films
By Laura Kilgus
Photo credit: Grassroots Films / Director Charles Kinnane films children in a leper colony in Ghana as Will Kinnane holds a microphone.
Photo credit: Grassroots Films / Director Charles Kinnane films children in a leper colony in Ghana as Will Kinnane holds a microphone.

.- Part of an incredible team of filmmakers, Charles Kinnane helps give people a glimpse into a world they may have never experienced. Through dramatic filming and powerful images, Kinnane and the “Christ-centered” team lets the dignity of the human person shine through the lepers in Africa, the homeless in New York City, and abused and disabled children in Peru.

Even in his childhood, Kinnane, a native of Little Compton and oldest of 10 children, grew up making home movies with his siblings.

“I’ve always wanted to make films,” said Kinnane. “As kids growing up, that is what we did. We made films for fun. I had a great upbringing and we knew great priests growing up. My grandparents, Maureen and Lou Pieri, who were very active in the Rhode Island pro-life movement, have had a great influence on me.”

Kinnane explained that when it came time for him to work and learn more about film, a priest friend of his gave him some important advice.

“He said, if you feel that passionate about it, you should put your faith into something good,” said Kinnane. “He planted that in me.”

Founded in 2001, Grassroots Films, based in Brooklyn, N.Y., has a devoted team including Kinnane (director and editor), Joseph Campo (executive producer), Clifford Azize (associate producer and editor), Jeffrey Azize (production management assistant) and Michael Campo (associate producer and Writer).

“I work with an unbelievable creative team and the faith is very real in this environment,” Kinnane said. “Nobody here is looking to go to Hollywood and make a bunch of money. Everyone just wants to get a good message out. We don’t want to preach to the choir. We are looking to reach everyone across the board. We are people who are working on things that are authentic and hit home for a lot of people.”

Kinnane does not have a film degree nor did he formally study film, but that does not hold him back in the profoundly creative and professional work he has done at Grassroots.

“Nobody at Grassroots has a degree but everyone has a desire to do creative stuff,” said Kinnane. “Each project is like another class for us.”

Without mentioning the words “pro-life,” Grassroots Films biggest project to date “The Human Experience,” uses other ways to send the message of the value of a human life.

“‘The Human Experience’ is presented in a way that we are not going to tell you our thoughts on God,” Kinnane explained. “Let a woman dying of AIDS in Africa tell you her thoughts on God. Lets hear it from the homeless man who is trying to find his next meal or keep warm on the streets of New York City. You get a unique perspective. We are just trying to show life as it is.”

As expressed on Grassrootsfilms.com, “The Human Experience,” follows “a band of brothers who travel the world in search of the answers to the burning questions: Who am I? Who is Man? Why do we search for meaning? Their journey brings them into the middle of the lives of the homeless on the streets of New York City, the orphans and disabled children of Peru, and the abandoned lepers in the forests of Ghana, Africa. What the young men discover changes them forever. Through one on one interviews and real life encounters, the brothers are awakened to the beauty of the human person and the resilience of the human spirit.”

Screened in more than 50 different cities in the United States and now in Europe, “The Human Experience” is basic Catholic teaching, but does not come out and say that, Kinnane noted. He is excited to continue to work on projects with meaning and reach people.

“It’s pretty interesting when you work on things that are true and beautiful,” said Kinnane. “It doesn’t matter where people are coming from, people will respond to it if there is truth to it.”

Printed with permission from The Rhode Island Catholic, newspaper for the Diocese of Providence

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