Two Jehovah's Witness families stand firm for their controversial and misunderstood Christian faith.

Knocking 01
Independent Lens
Premiere Date
May 22, 2007
60 minutes
Funding Initiative
Open Call
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2006 Indianapolis International Film Festival-Audience Award - Best Documentary
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2006 USA Film Festival-Best Documentary
  • Engardio joel filmmaker bio

    Joel Engardio

    Joel P. Engardio was the recipient of the 2000 National Press Foundation award for science writing. In 2003, the Society of Professional Journalists named him best opinion writer in Northern California. He was a finalist for the University of Missouri's 1999 national lifestyle writing awards in multicultural journalism. Engardio has written for the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Weekly, Newsweek, Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, Show more and P.O.V. magazine. In television, he worked as an associate producer for ABC News at 20/20 and the network's documentary unit, Turning Point. Engardio also consults as a media and communications strategist for the American Civil Liberties Union. He graduated from Michigan State University, where he majored in journalism and history. Engardio was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness in Saginaw, Michigan, but never joined the religion. His mother is the only Jehovah’s Witness in his mostly Catholic family. Engardio lives in San Francisco. Show less

    Shepard tom filmmaker bio

    Tom Shepard

    Tom Shepard has directed and produced documentaries for over 15 years. His film Scout's Honor won the Audience Award for Best Documentary and Freedom of Expression Award at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival. Scout's Honor was broadcast nationally on PBS when it opened P.O.V.'s 14th season. In 2006, he co-directed and produced Knocking, a film about Show more Jehovah's Witnesses, which broadcast nationally on Independent Lens. Shepard helped coordinate national outreach campaigns for both of these films. He also has produced, directed and edited shorter films for the public television series Voting in America and Spark. Previously, Shepard worked as an editor at National Public Radio for Linda Wertheimer. At NPR, he co-produced Listening to America, an audio documentary on the history of public radio in America. He graduated from Stanford University, where he majored in biology and film. He is the former Chairman of New Day Films and lives in San Francisco. Show less

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    The Film

    There are seven million Jehovah’s Witnesses in 230 countries worldwide. They spend 1.3 billion hours a year ministering door-to-door, making them one of America’s favorite punch lines. Despite their 130-plus-year history, this Christian group is still often derided and misunderstood. Knocking opens the door on Jehovah’s Witnesses, revealing how they have impacted society in ways far greater and more surprising than the spreading of their faith.

    While protecting their own rights, Jehovah’s Witnesses have won a record number of U.S. Supreme Court cases, expanding freedoms for all Americans. In Nazi Germany, they chose non-violence, landing them in the concentration camps instead of Hitler’s army. They refuse blood transfusions on religious grounds, yet have significantly sdvanced the science of bloodless medicine. They are moral conservatives who stay out of politics. They attempt to persuade, but not impose their beliefs.

    Knocking follows two Jehovah’s Witness families who advocate for their controversial faith. Joseph Kempler was born a Polish Jew, but has been a Jehovah’s Witness for nearly half a century. As the survivor of six concentration camps, he cursed God for allowing the Holocaust. After Joseph immigrated to the United States as a young man, a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses knocked on his door. He found a renewed purpose for God in their teachings and eventually converted.

    Raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, Seth Thomas lives in suburban Dallas. A genetic disorder has ravaged his liver and at 23, he requires a transplant to survive. His father is a donor match who can give half of his liver to Seth. But as Witnesses, neither will accept a transfusion. They struggle to find doctors willing to attempt the surgery without donor blood.