As the social fabric of life in rural India disintegrates in the late 1990s, journalist Manav Banerjee (Sharman Joshi) moves with his pregnant wife to the town of Orissa in hope of a better life and the promise of a lucrative career. When speculation mounts the local Australian missionary Graham Staines (Stephen Baldwin) is illegally proselytizing leprosy patients, Manav agrees to investigate undercover for the newspaper.
This is a powerful and gripping story of God’s hope in the midst of hopelessness. The film, based on actual events and shot on location in India, is a stirring story that illustrates hope, love and forgiveness. Starring Stephen Baldwin as missionary Graham Staines, it portrays Staines’ life, his wife Gladys and three kids, who have made untold sacrifices to minister to lepers in restricted areas and to proclaim the love of God found in the gospels. Staines is originally from Australia but India is now his permanent home.
The story takes place in the 1990s, and there are governmental laws against Christians who would use inducements, including money, to make new converts. Journalist Manav Benerjee (Sharman Joshi) is hired by a local newspaper editor to shadow Staines to see if any wrongdoing can be discovered. The editor, in return, promises to help pay the bills for Manav’s wife, who has been hospitalized following the difficult delivery of their daughter. Determined to bolster his journalistic ambitions, Manav continually attempts to find Staines doing something illegal. To his amazement, he instead discovers a man who sweeps up a boy with leprosy into his arms in order to help him and who continually applies medical treatment to the downtrodden lepers. He constantly shows them love. This man’s deeds continue to haunt Manav, especially when Manav inadvertently stirs up a local angry man that wants no conversions in the local villages. The man believes the “head of the snake”—in this case, Staines—must be “cut off.”
What Staines offered the so-called “worthless” people was significance—and hopefulness to the hopeless. This dynamic film kept my interest throughout and features remarkable cinematography and stirring music. It is a movie that contains a tragedy, and yet offers wonderful hope. It features a few scenes of churches set on fire, as well as a van, but none of the scenes are gratuitous. It has merited our Dove Faith-Friendly Seal for Ages 12+
The Dove Take
This movie is guaranteed to touch the heart of every audience member. It clearly demonstrates God’s love even in the midst of uncertainty and pain.