Guns and other weapons have become a flash point of heated debate. But one group turns them into shovels, transforming a symbol of power and violence into one of regeneration and renewal.
Nonprofit Lead to Life — led by activists Kyle Lemle and Bronte Velez — collects weapons donated from the public and gathered from police departments. Working with local artisans and metalsmiths around Atlanta, Georgia, and Oakland, California, they melt down the weapons into shovels and other gardening tools. Then these tools are used to plant sacred trees in communities impacted by violence.
The process, captured in an beautiful, evocative flow of images by filmmaker Fraser Jones, is inspired by Mexican artist Pedro Reyes, who transformed dismantled guns into musical instruments. The idea focuses on spiritual healing, tranforming a symbol of pain for many into something healing and life-sustaining.
In a collage of sound, image and voice, the film creates a patchwork on the ideas and impulses behind the project, capturing not just the process itself, but the emotions it brings out in the communities undertaking it. The film also offers a compelling angle into the spiritual dimensions infusing Lead to Life, opening a new dimension into a long-simmering debate.
With so much strong emotion present on both sides of any political debate, “Serotiny” offers the idea that transforming society isn’t just a matter of changing laws or policies, but involves the deep work of moving the heart and spirit beyond raw pain into a space of healing and intention. The alchemy of taking anger and grief — and honoring it by transmuting it into something sacred — is an idea that is powerful to consider in such a divisive political climate, and a perspective missing from current debate.