‘Knocking’ puts Jehovah’s Witnesses in different light

Andrew Hampp

This film, about Jehovah’s Witnesses, is interesting and eye-opening. Knocking tells the story of two Witnesses who have led different lives. The film helps viewers to sympathize with Witnesses. PHOTO COURTESY OF CLEVELAND INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

For being a 65-minute documentary on Jehovah’s Witnesses, Knocking sure packs a lot into its short running time.

Co-director/narrator Joel Engardio (former associate producer of ABC News’ “Turning Point”) addresses the many annoyances Witnesses present unsuspecting Americans at the beginning of his film. But he spends the rest of Knocking convincing the viewer there’s much more to being a Jehovah’s Witness than just going door-to-door with scripture.

Engardio weaves many interesting historical facts and tidbits about Jehovah’s Witnesses in between the storylines of two radically different Witnesses.

Seth is a 23-year-old Texan in need of a liver transplant, albeit one that doesn’t require a blood transfusion, as Witnesses believe voluntarily letting blood leave the body is making a mockery of the sacrifice Christ made for them.

Seth is told surgeries such as his can be very risky, particularly without a transfusion, but eventually his father volunteers to be his donor. This all leads up to a suspenseful father-son surgery sequence, one that would be even more emotional were it not for the comical skepticism of Seth’s non-Witness grandmother.

Knocking‘s other storyline revolves around Joseph Kempler, a Holocaust survivor who was raised Jewish but converted to a Jehovah’s Witness upon his release from several concentration camps.

The film finds him eager to reconnect with his Jewish daughter and her family, having been in contact with them only moderately throughout his life as a Jehovah’s Witness. At one point, the reunited family takes a trip to Austria to visit many of Kempler’s old concentration camps and churches.



Directed by Joel Endoglio and Tom Shepard

Stater rating (out of five): ????


The family’s ultimate reconciliation and increased understanding of one another could come off as cheesy. But Kempler’s near-apathetic approach to the situation makes the emotional family huddle seem all the more authentic.

Knocking doesn’t come down nearly as hard on Jehovah’s Witnesses as its beginning suggests, and it ends on an overly sentimental note. But darn it all if it doesn’t succeed in making the viewer feel even a little bit for the people who’ve likely interrupted them at home on at least one occasion.

Contact campus editor Andrew Hampp at [email protected].