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Devil's Playground (2002)

DVD Cover (Wellspring Media)
Genres:
Biography (Non-Fiction), Culture & Society, Documentary, Religions & Belief Systems, Sociology, Spirituality & Philosophy
Director:
Lucy Walker Lucy Walker
Starring:
Velda Bontrager Velda Bontrager
Mark Bontrager Mark Bontrager
Dewayne Chupp Dewayne Chupp
Dylan Cole Dylan Cole
Matt Eash Matt Eash

7.0 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Chad
Added: November 05, 2004
This documentary sheds a bit of light on the Amish way of life, and the period of their life known as Rumspringa in particular. Up until the age of sixteen, Amish children follow normal Amish lives... working their farms, going to church, learning the religion, etc. However, the Amish believe that nobody should be forced into their religion without knowing the outside world, so when the kids turn sixteen, they start their period of Rumspringa. At this point in their life, all of the Amish restrictions are removed... these teens can dress normally, party, drink, do drugs, buy a car, whatever they want to do. Rumspringa lasts anywhere from a few days up to a few years, however long the particular person wants to do it for. At the end of their time, they make a choice... stay in the modern world and live a normal life, or return to the Amish community and live out the rest of their lives by the Amish rules. This documentary shows a large number of Amish teens experiencing the outside world for the first time, but mainly focuses on two teens in particular. There's Faron, a young male who becomes addicted to methamphetamine and becomes a drug dealer in order to support his habit, and is torn between returning to the Amish lifestyle and spending the rest of his life with his new-found girlfriend. The other main focus of the movie, though to a lesser extent that Faron, is Velda. Velda is a young lady who had her Rumspringa period, decided to return to the Amish community, but then decided that she wanted to go back to the outside world. After leaving them, she was shunned by her family and friends, and now attempts to make it on her own.

Up to a point, this documentary was pretty interesting and enlightening. This period of the Amish life was completely unknown to myself, as I'd never heard of it nor expected something like this from those people. There's a number of facts about the Amish lifestyle that are presented here that I was also unaware of that tend to make the religion look a lot less bizarre than it appears to be to an outsider such as myself. This was all good and interesting, but then it seemed as though the director got a bit lost on how to continue the film. We get a scene around the beginning that shows a very large group of Amish teens having a wild party, complete with booze, loud techno music, and ladies in short skirts. Then we switch over to a preacher, who drops a few facts about the religion and this period of the teens life. Then, we jump over to another party, then it's over to a bowling alley, then we get the morning after the party (complete with loads of people passed out in various spots), the preacher returns, teens partying... while it's a bit of a shock to see the Amish doing this sort of thing, the point was made in the first few scenes. Instead of leaving it at that and moving onwards, the director focused way too much of her time on showing parties, drunks, and druggies. The movie does get back into the swing of things when it starts to focus on Faron and Velda, but there's a good ten to fifteen minute block of time that I feel could have been removed to make the presentation more streamlined and effective.

Overall, this would likely be interesting to those who are interested in learning about this period of time in the Amish life, but if the first paragraph up above didn't catch your interest, you'd do well to avoid this. Personally, I found it to be pretty interesting, but I felt that it could have been much better with a few edits, and perhaps an addition of another "main" character. Your mileage may vary, however. 6/10 from me.
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