The Film

Read interviews with Seth Thomas and Joseph Kempler, Jehovah's Witnesses featured in KNOCKING.

Two white men in suits, one older and one younger, stand in the middle of a suburban block holding black briefcases
Ralph Thomas and his son Seth, Jehovah's Witnesses featured in KNOCKING

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 rather than fighting for Hitler. They refuse blood transfusions on religious grounds, yet support 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 stand firm 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. Joseph still embraces his Jewish heritage, and part of his family remains religiously Jewish while the rest follow the tenets of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In KNOCKING, both sides of Joseph's family accompany him to Austria and Poland to visit the concentration camps where Joseph was imprisoned as a teenager.

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. He has found a live-donor match with his father, who can give half of his liver to Seth. But neither will accept a blood transfusion, which goes against their beliefs. Surgeons at Baylor Medical Center in Texas turned the Thomas family down for treatment. But the University of Southern California Hospital in Los Angeles is willing to operate. Some members of the Thomas family are not Jehovah’s Witnesses and oppose the religion’s stand on blood, agreeing with the doctors who say this procedure is too risky.

Narrated by filmmaker Joel P. Engardio, who was raised in a Witness household but chose not to join the religion, KNOCKING offers Jehovah’s Witnesses as one example of how groups with increasingly polarizing religious and social views can peacefully coexist.

Explore myths and realities of Jehovah's Witnesses >>


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