There has been a very interesting documentary called My Swastika in the making for some time now. The documentary deals with the swastika debate, investigating the psychological, sociological, anthropological and human aspects of this controversial and spiritual symbol.
I met the documentary team and spent some time with them when they were in Finland earlier this year. I had in my mind already back then that it would be interesting to interview Dominick Crowley (writer/director/presenter/executive producer) about the film. I had fascinating long talks with him and the team about the symbol and tons of things involved.
Some months passed and we stayed in touch. At some point I remembered my idea of an interview and I finally sent a bunch of questions to Dominick. The following interview is the result of those questions and Dominick’s answers 卐
Nice to speak to you again, Dominick! How are you?
I am very well since our last meeting. At the moment we are very productive in the new company that will be producing the My Swastika documentary. It is being produced by 3rd Prophecy, a film company, just formed, that will be specializing in new, thought provoking films and documentaries. We are very excited.
If this interview could take place anywhere, anytime in the universe, where and when and why there and then?
Well, without trying to predict where we will be in 23 years but I would ideally like to have this interview when I am 60, in the conservatory of my beautiful self-sufficient, country home. Why 60? Well even at the age of 37 I do not consider myself to know all the facts about this subject. If this interview had be done just last year I would have a completely different set of answers to your questions. With each year we gather new knowledge and develop ourselves intellectually, morally and spiritually. So to give better, more informed answers, in a beautiful relaxing environment, then how about my place at 1pm on the 30th of June in 2034?
For those who don’t know you, please introduce yourself. Who are you, what you’ve done and what you do currently?
I was born in central Dublin in 1974. The son of a Butcher and Hygienist (but back then they were know as Cleaners). From an early age I was attracted to Spirituality, the Arts and Orientalism. I was very much the Irish Catholic and felt a strong relationship with God. In my search to expand my spiritual education I explored everything from Witchcraft to Judaism. At 16 I had the good fortune to meet the Hare Krishna movement (ISKCON) where I was introduced to the Hindu Gods and Eastern philosophy and meditation. I was active in this faith for about 9 years until I decided to explore the more “mundane” aspects of live. I became a health fanatic and, instead of rejecting my human body, I fed it. I had an ambition to become a body builder. I trained with a very outgoing character who saw my theatrical energy and insisted I should become an actor, to which I followed his advice and ended up threading the boards, which then led to film, which then led to directing and producing. Now at the helm of my own film company, and with the culmination of my past experiences, I am producing a ground breaking documentary called My Swastika 卐
What My Swastika is all about? Who will be interviewed in the film, where you have been making it? What kind of crew you’ve been making the film with? What you aim to achieve with the documentary? Is the film first of its kind?
My Swastika is a documentary that explores the Swastika symbol, the people who would like to see it used worldwide, the people who would like it banned worldwide and the mentality and psychology of both. We explore the true history, which is very absent from school books, of the symbol which debatably dates back nearly 18,000 years. We look at the Swastika Reclamation movement to see if the Swastika can be used again in the West and by what means they are using to spreading their vision. We talk to Academics who are asked to examine this movement and the goals that they wish to achieve to see if it is actually possible. We also talk to people who see this reclamation movement as something dangerous and not to be taken lightly.
So far we have interviewed people from Hinduism, Falun Dafa, Pagans and others who use the symbol daily. We spoke also to military archivists, Jewish Rabbi, a psychologist, cult buster and not to forget, the everyday guy on the street.
Earlier this year our crew and I went through Europe in search of the answers to our questions. A small crew of four people who, without being paid for their work, gave their valuable time and energy to help make this documentary happen. I think people are happy to help out so much because of what we are actually trying to achieve with this project.
With the documentary our real goal is to open peoples eyes and reveal the things which you are not supposed to know.
It is a one of a kind documentary which goes out of its way to save a burning witch from the pyre. What joy it is for a filmmaker to be able to attempt a project that will change the way we see something that we were exposed to at school and was told was the truth. To bring the real truth to the audience is something worth giving your time to. With the documentary our real goal is to open peoples eyes and reveal the things which you are not supposed to know.
Do you remember the first moment of getting the idea for the documentary? How it all got started? Was it like a moment of “Yes! This is a must thing to do!” or more like “Hmm, this is somewhat crazy idea, but it would be an interesting thing to do…”?
The moment I got the idea for the documentary was when I was sitting on the steps of Original Skin Tattoo studio with my good friend Phil Cummins. We were relaxing after filming Phil’s son tattooed him. His son was 8 at the time and the tattoo was a Swastika. Don’t worry, he was supervised at all times by the hygiene conscious Phil and his assistant Dave. Over a coffee Phil explained his passion for Swastika and his mission to reclaim the symbol. This was all very very interesting and I thought immediately that it was a worthy story to tell. Now, at that time I envisioned only a 10 minute documentary. As I researched I understood that all this info would not fit into that time duration, so I thought best 20 minutes. 2 years later and looking at all the information gathered and a documentary that is 90 mins long I still think its is not enough time.
Although there has been much enthusiasm for the film, you’ve also faced lots of challenges with the documentary, which tells that the subject is hot, if not outright tabu. Tell us about the challenges regarding funding the film, prejudices involved, getting people to the documentary, etc. You must have expected challenges in making the documentary but has it been tougher than what you thought?
Straight off the bat, one of the first challenges I had, personally, was say the word Swastika in public. When first talking to friends about the project when I first started, I would tell them what subject it was, rather the same was as you would tell a racist joke while in a public place. Very quietly. After overcoming that hurdle the next was how to present the documentary. Knowing how to word and visualize the documentary was no easy task. I knew the subject I wanted to sing about but was finding it hard to find the right notes.
Funding was, and still is, the biggest hurdle of all. We are too taboo to be associated with mainstream funders and have been put through a loop the loop with funding sites. Even just setting up an email account for the documentary was difficult. The word Swastika was seen as an unacceptable word to be used as a mail address. We first tried myswastika, rejected, the my-swastika, rejected, my.swastika, my/swastika and my:)swastika. All rejected. In the end we found myswastik@ slipped through. As a side story I even tried to create a mail address name that could be more unacceptable than Swastika. So I tried to create a mail address as c$£tf^&k%£email@example.com.(censored version). It was accepted.
So far there has been no help from the industry itself and all work and funding has come through donated items to auction, Gentle Swastika Collective t-shirt sales and our own personal pleas to Swastika supporters. I have to say that one of the first people who gave a Geronimo cheer and helped us from the beginning was Dr Kevin Sisk from Canada. It is people and donations like that which helps us continue.
As for the documentary being tougher than what I thought? Yes. It has been a near Herculean task for us but has educated us on so many levels.
Talking about swastika today the discussion turns sooner or later to Nazi-Germany. How much this Nazi-angle to the symbol dominate the discussion and feelings about the symbol here in the Western world still? What does that tell about what Nazis did to the symbol and what it tells about the symbol itself?
Today, to the common Western person there is no difference between the two images. The peaceful Swastika and the Nazi Hakenkreuz. But you will be shocked to know that this is not entirely the fault of the Nazi’s. This is also the fault of Westerners! It is the continuation of a witch-hunt that happened in the 1930s and still exists today. Every day you can see movies, books, graffiti, etc. that associates the Swastika with the Nazis, and not all of it depicts the Hakenkreuz in its strict red, white and black coloring. Some depictions just show Hindu Swastika’s, Jain Swastika or even Buddhist Swastikas without understanding what they are depicting. By the West consistently associating the Swastika with the Nazis and not having knowledge of the difference between the Swastika and Hakenkreuz then, we as Westerners, reinforce their ownership of that image.
I always make the point that it is like jailing Charles Manson twin brother up for looking like his brother. We have to now start making a difference between the two. We have to identify that Charles and John Manson are not the same and should not be held for the others crime.
In Germany they didn’t, and don’t call the Nazi image Swastika. They call it Hakenkreuz. Most German people I spoke to didn’t know what a Swastika was. But they knew what Hakenkreuz was.
Swastika is innocent and is untarnished by Nazis. It is our view that is tarnished. As long as we in the West repeatedly remind ourselves of that connection then reclaimationists will have a hard road ahead.
To answer your other point quickly, the Nazis did not do anything to the symbol. Same as you don’t do anything to a lock when you put a key in it, other that open it. I don’t think the symbol has, is, or will be tainted. Rather I think our perceptions, understanding and knowledge of the symbol is tainted. I don’t see Swastika as the Godhead or a goal in itself. I see it as a gateway, a tool, a desire stone. Swastika gives you what you most desire or opens a door to your desires, but like all intentions what you get back may not be what you want and may come out in a negative rebound or expression. Nazis put impure ideals in their desire, what they got back was destruction. So Swastika is innocent and is untarnished by Nazis. It is our view that is tarnished. As long as we in the West repeatedly remind ourselves of that connection then reclaimationists will have a hard road ahead.
How much there has been change in Western peoples view and experience of the symbol since the end of the WW II? Are we as Western people still profoundly stuck with the Nazi-association or are we getting over it sooner or later? Will swastika be reclaimed back to its former glory or is it a hopeless idea?
Very little. Apart from very small pockets of post war Swastika Reclamation supporters. It was very isolated and could only gain expression amongst the ranks of artists and academics. And even then it was a taboo subject. Canadian artist Manwoman‘s appearance in the book Modern Primitives, a book that focused on the growing tribal sub culture of tattooists, body modifications and artists at that time. His bold statement of tattooing Swastikas all over his body and views on the “sacred” Swastika gave the modern reclamation movement its foundations. It is only over the last 10 years that there has been an explosion in Swastika Reclamation movement. The Internet is one main factor for this. There is change, slow but progressive. Word is definitely spreading.
I think to truly reclaim Swastika you must first reclaim its meaning. To display the symbol is easy but to display its meaning is a completely different story.
As for will it be reclaimed? As long as Westerners can’t tell the difference between what a Swastika is and what a Hakenkreuz is, and as long as reclaimationists can’t tell the difference between the symbol and the meaning, then I think it will experiences a few stumbles on its way. I see many people collecting the symbol as way of half rebellion and half hobby but only see a few core sections extolling swa-asti-ka. I try not to use the term “the fight to reclaim the Swastika” for how can you reclaim all well being through fighting? I think to truly reclaim Swastika you must first reclaim its meaning. To display the symbol is easy but to display its meaning is a completely different story.
Who are the most important persons and groups who seek to reclaim swastika? How are they doing in their cause? What people who would like to reclaim swastika can do about it?
Everyone is as equally important as each other in reclaiming the symbol. Each group is trying to reclaim their Swastika in their way and at their own time. The majority or these groups reclaim the symbol simply by using it as their faith’s, group’s or individual thinking draws them to.
Reclaiming anything takes three things. Hard data, an understanding of the information and that information in action.
I think also if people want to reclaim the symbol the best thing they can do is what I would call a 3 step program. Step 1: Read and read and read. Not just the information on the internet, but books on the subject. If your national library, college or museum has a reading room, make use of it. Find out as much information on the subject as you possibly can. Step 2: Put all the collected information into the back of your head and meditate on what you have learned. Step 3: Understand and put into practice what you have learned about Swastika. Reclaiming anything takes three things. Hard data, an understanding of the information and that information in action.
What are the most “swastika friendly” and “swastika banning” areas in the Western world currently and how that manifests?
I was recently asked if there was any Swastika Reclamation movement in the East. Not to my knowledge in any case. In the East the Swastika is as common as the Cross in the West, it is part of the everyday culture and ambiance in its Hindu or Buddhist orientated cities. You could say that these would be Swastika Friendly areas.
In the East the Swastika is as common as the Cross in the West, it is part of the everyday culture and ambiance in its Hindu or Buddhist orientated cities.
There are also some areas in Europe that are inwardly Swastika Friendly but due to its sensitive neighbours it holds the symbol and its history to them in archive only. Finland is a fine example. Stemming from the formation of the history of the Finnish air force and the artist Gallen-Kallela’s use in design and decorations for the former, the symbol holds a place in Finnish history but sadly, like the Hopi Indian tribe, dropped its prominent use in favour for discretion. Still today I have spoken to many Finns who see this symbol as part of their proud and daring history and acknowledge its relevance to their historical national identity. Germany and Poland on the other hand have pretty much zero tolerance for the symbol. In the belly of the beast, as I call the two, the image is too strong. There are so many reclaimationists in these countries though. Some come under fire and some are simply seen as anarchists.
The strangest story I have heard is that of a young boy in Beer Sheba, Israel. The police were called to his home when a neighbour saw that on his jacket was a Swastika. The boy liked a certain heavy metal band that happened to have the symbol on the album and like all kids of that age had drawn it on his rocker jacket. Now due to the fact that Israel actually does not have an exact law on this they could not figure out what to do.
How swastika is viewed outside the Western world today? How Nazi use of the symbol and associations involved have effected non-westerners experience of the symbol? Or has the symbol been more or less immune to the Nazi taint for example among hindus and buddhists in the East?
Outside the Western world Swastika is seen in a relevant context to the country it is seen in. Even by Westerners abroad. I lived in Israel and have many Jewish friends who travel to the Far East. They see Swastika everywhere and understand the context in which it is seen in those countries; still holding that fear and distrust of the symbol which has been educated to them. The youth in the West and in most English speaking are continuously brainwashed as to the Nazi connection with the symbol. The word Swastika is continuously tied to the Nazi party through literature, cinema, and political security. Swastika, in all its form, has become the Nazi party and their history in their absence. I re-illiterate that the Nazis never officially referred to their banner as a Swastika. It is the Westerners who gave it that title and it is the Westerners who tarnish the symbol and its true meaning.
I re-illiterate that the Nazis never officially referred to their banner as a Swastika. It is the Westerners who gave it that title and it is the Westerners who tarnish the symbol and its true meaning.
As for the symbol being immune to Nazi connotations amongst the Hindus and Buddhist. Has the Crucifix been tarnished amongst Christians even after its use by the K.K.K?
What have been the best experiences in making the documentary? The worst? The most surprising? The most odd? Any special stories you’d like to share?
Meeting new friends. Mr “Sponge”. What was told to me in the Hindu Temple in Warsaw. The Jewish synagogue in Dublin. You will have to watch the dvd to understand. Spoilers!
If you could go back in time, would you still start making the documentary? Has it been too much trouble, worth it all?
All I can do is what the Universe wants me to do. Even if I travelled back in time I would probably do it all over again, simply because that is what the Universe wanted me to do. As for trouble. Getting out of bed in the morning can cause trouble. Trouble is trouble, no matter where it comes from or what you are doing. So at least all the troubles I have experienced has been while doing my work with my given skills as a human being.
How has your personal relationship to Swastika changed during making the documentary? Have you started to see swastikas here and there, everywhere? Has swastika “started to speak to you”? I guess your relationship to symbol has got deeper and more personal, right? What are the angles to swastika that you personally find most interesting?
If I was to answer any of these questions I would end up giving away my conclusion in the documentary. But I will answer one question. There is not a single angle of Swastika I don’t find interesting. It really is the most interesting subject. It covers everything. Totally fascinating.
Now that you’ve been exploring the symbol, studying it, interviewing people about it, what do you think swastika is really about at its core? What is a swastika? What is at the core of this ancient and universal symbol?
I am afraid this answer must wait until people see the documentary. I will say one thing though. When I found out what Swastika is, I ended up in a intellectual daze for 3 days. Spoilers 卐
Most of the film has been filmed, right? When can we expect the film to come out? Do you plan the film to be seen at some film festivals, will it be in theaters, etc.?
90% of the documentary has been filmed. We are still waiting on certain academics to have free time, but their interviews will be slotted in when they are ready. We were actually due to release this summer, but due to financial problems we were delayed in getting to footage we needed.
We are now in post production stage and hope to be ready by January 2011. After the film is ready we will be touring Europe and hopefully further. Attending film festivals on all scales to promote the documentary. As for theaters, well this all hangs on a distributor deal. I have constantly been asked when the film is ready, when it will be released etc. Most think that the filmmaking process is, point, shoot, print and abracadabra. In reality there is a lot of politics and deals to deal with before the public ever get to see a finished film. A very tricky road. We are presently looking at distributors in China and Japan.
Will the DVD have bonus materials? Where it can be ordered?
Yes there will be bonus material. Again we can’t possibly add all material to the actual documentary but with the option of bonus material we can add a few extra treats. As for ordering. We will be taking orders by late December 2011 and will release by mid January 2012
Why should everybody see My Swastika documentary?
I wish I could give that answer. Why should anybody see anything, because they want to. I cannot push Swastika or the views of the interviewees onto anyone. All I can answer, really, is that people should see this documentary because there is no one who will stop you. And if they do stop you then all the more reason to see it.
What you will do once My Swastika is completed? Do you have an idea for the next film already in your mind?
I shall take very long break. It has and is an exhausting process and I will look forward to some time to concentrate on writing. Our next project idea is a documentary that concentrates on the subject of animal shelters and animal welfare in so called advanced first world countries.
What makes you happy?
Having two of the most amazing women in my life. My Fiance, Kasia and my daughter Kai 卐
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Thank you for the interview, Dominick! Swastika blessings! 卐
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Some related links:
My Swastika in Facebook.
My Swastika official webpage.
My Swastika YouTube channel.
Interview with Dominick regarding My Swastika on DCTV (from 14:35 forward).
My notes on the origin of swastika.
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