Following the path of mentor and disciple

For many years Maeve Murphy made huge contributions to kosen-rufu in Camden HQ. She served as a Young Women’s Chapter Leader, National Youth division leader, King’s Cross District Leader and HQ Keibi co-ordinator. Now as she moves to her new home in South London, we are priveliged to honour her great input by reprinting her experience as published in the May 2010 Art of Living.

A long time ago I came across guidance by Daisaku Ikeda for women who have experienced sexual or physical violence.

“Victims of violence are often deeply hurt spiritually as well as physically. They lose trust in their humanity and often feel tarnished, as if their true lives have been destroyed. If you were a victim of violence, please remember that no matter what, your value as an individual will never change. Brace yourself firmly. Say to yourself, ‘I am not a person who will allow such an incident to destroy my life.”

I was very moved by President Ikeda’s compassion and understanding of the deep suffering women have experienced. His powerful message of encouragement inspired me to write a film – a love story- that could express the same level of compassion and sense of empowerment. I wanted to show how two people did not let what happened to them destroy their lives. I wanted to show that victims of sexual abuse, whether they are female or male, can go beyond their suffering and create strong relationships in which they can fully support and give to others.

When I first met with the film’s financiers to discuss Beyond the Fire, I was told they wanted me to change the focus of the film to look at the female character’s story rather than the man who had been sexually abused. I knew I didn’t want to do this. I also knew I had hit a brick wall. I would need to change the screenplay in such an essential way that it would make it a different project altogether. However, if I said ‘no’ that would leave me totally without support, both financially and institutionally. However, I decided that the man’s story was central to my creative vision so I returned to London and decided to carry on regardless.

I might have felt alone in terms of the film industry, but I was really well supported and encouraged by friends in faith in the SGI and, step by step, I started to get the film project moving. I dedicated every single SGI activity to some aspect of the film. I had the film fully cast by the time I left the youth division. As I moved into the women’s division one of the first things I did was a one-day shoot in Liverpool.

I had given my mother, Professor Pauline Murphy of the University of Ulster, President Ikeda’s book of essays: For The Sake of Peace: Seven Paths to Global Harmony, to read. She was very impressed by him and together we wrote a membership proposal to the Irish Association, of which she is president. In the summer of 2008, just as I was doing the post production of Beyond the Fire, the Northern Irish Council of the Irish Association agreed to endorse my mother’s proposal for honourary membership for President Ikeda. He accepted, saying he would be honoured to accept an award from such a distinguished organisation working for peaceful relations in Ireland. I was delighted.

Meanwhile, I was still working hard on my film. I went to have dinner with a post production manager at Ealing Studios. He mentioned he had released one film before for the cinema and would be interested in releasing Beyond the Fire. I knew the studios had close links with ICA in London which would be the perfect cinema for this film, so I agreed. I felt accepted as a member of the UK film industry.

In 2009, a preview screening at the Belfast Film Festival led to the inclusion of Beyond the Fire in the London Independent Film Festival in the category of Best UK feature. However, I was convinced that I was not someone that could win awards. I felt that this was for someone else. I found it hard chanting for my own success, it somehow didn’t seem right. My low self-esteem told me I wasn’t good enough, I didn’t deserve it, that no matter what I did, I was simply not someone who won things. However, five years earlier I had received the Soka Art Award from President Ikeda, so clearly he believed in me and my creativity. I felt that it was time that I believed in myself as a writer and a director. I wanted to respect and value what I could offer as a Buddhist to the process of film-making – not only writing and directing, but also in the discussions needed in such a collaborative process.

During the London independent Film Festival, the director asked me to attaend the awards party. Then he went through all the awards and finally had just one certificate left. I cannot describe the shock and delight when he said that the Best UK Feature Film was awarded to me for Beyond the Fire. I was so thrilled. All the tough challenges and decisions I had to make were worth it. It was only later however, in a quiet moment beside the Thames that I felt in my heart that I had responded to President Ikeda’s expectation of me and had won.

Beyond the Fire was shown at the ICA as part of their new British Cinema season, showcasing eight works of ‘the hottest new film-making talent’. There was a limited release in selected cinemas across the UK, which was very timely as it coincided with a campaign in London to fund three rape crisis centres.

At the question and answer sessions in Belfast and London a discussion took place between the film-makers, survivors of abuse and organisations supporting survivors. In a gentle and creative way Beyond the Fire can support the survivors and the reform that is being made in society. President Ikeda’s inspiration from the book The Way of Youth was printed on the press packs.

Beyond the Fire premiered in central London as part of a major film festival on the same day as my mother presented President Daisaku Ikeda with honourary membership of the Irish Association. (see June 2009 Art of Living.) The film then went on to win Best International Feature at the Garden State Film Festival on 28th March 2010.

It felt like total vindication after four years of hard work on both endeavours and reminded me that if we base our actions on the mentor-disciple relationship we will always win in the end, especially if we are committed to victory. It was hard at times and pushed me through the limits of what I thought was possible for me to do. I am determined to continue advancing with President Ikeda as my mentor. There is no doubt that I will win joyfully if I do.