Search - Devil's Playground on DVD

Devil's Playground
Devil's Playground
Actors: Velda Bontrager, Mark Bontrager, Dewayne Chupp, Dylan Cole, Matt Eash
Director: Lucy Walker
Genres: Indie & Art House, Special Interests, Documentary
NR     2003     1hr 17min

Devil's Playground explores the Amish ritual of Rumspringa, a coming-of-age "time for decision" presented to Amish youth when they must decide which path they will follow as adults... 16th century religious scripture or 21...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Velda Bontrager, Mark Bontrager, Dewayne Chupp, Dylan Cole, Matt Eash
Director: Lucy Walker
Creators: Caroline Stevens, Carolyn Cantor, Daniel Laikind, Julie Goldman, Mandy Stein, Nancy Abraham, Sheila Nevins
Genres: Indie & Art House, Special Interests, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Religion & Spirituality, Biography
Studio: Wellspring
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen
DVD Release Date: 02/04/2003
Original Release Date: 01/01/2002
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2002
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 1hr 17min
Screens: Color,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 13
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

This is my life. This was my world.
Mervin E. Horst | New York, New York USA | 08/13/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"First of all the Amish women wear white prayer veilings/ coverings. They are not bonnets. Bonnets are black and/or dark blue and worn over the prayer veiling.This movie moved me to tears. I am a Mennonite who grew up among the Old Order Amish and Old Order Mennonites in Lancaster County Pennsylvania. Many visitors do not understand our way of life. People complain that the Amish are not well educated, well just last week I had an 8 year old Amish girl wait on me at her father's store. She tallied the five items that I bought on a battery operated cash register and cheerfully gave me the correct change counting it out into my hand. This is in such contrast to the urban young man I met about a month ago at McDonalds who although he gave me the incorrect change, argued with me for about three minutes until he finally, finally saw that he had made a mistake and then still had a major attitude because I pointed out that he had given me the incorrect change.Many people do not understand us of Anabaptist origins. They romanticize the Amish, they act like they are somehow holier than thou, etc. etc. The Amish themselves realize how human they are. We are descendants of the most radical wing of the Reformation. Only once you are an adult and are able to choose for yourself are you expected to "join church" and take that baptismal vow. The Amish take that promise perhaps too strongly. My own parents suggested that "you join our church because you are living with us now, but when you move away from home feel free to join another church." Perhaps the most moving part of the movie to me is when Faron takes out the Ausbund, the oldest Protestant hymnbook in continuous use and talks about the people from the 16th century being able to die for their faith. In spite of talking like a street hoodlum, Faron respects the deep conviction that our Anabaptist foreparents had in being willing to die for their faith. He says "those people were willing to die for their faith, man I don't know if I could do that."I am somewhat passionate in my defense of the Amish faith. The movie represents that ALL young people go through this phase. However, not all are as rebellious as these young people. Many remain at home and eventually join the church of their parents without being too wild. Some gatherings are hymnsings and not wild beer, drug induced orgies. The filmmaker of course would not have been able to interview such young people, because they would not allow themselves to be interviewed.This film is to be commended for its documentation of young Amish persons who are going through a rite of passage. The human spirit remains bouyant and almost 90% rejoin the church of their parents. Remaining in the Amish community has been likened by some in choosing to join a religious order. There is safety, contentment and acceptance for you if you follow the Ordnung.If anyone has further questions, feel free to email me at the address listed here."
Amish Demystification
William P. Mcneill | Seattle, Washington USA | 02/17/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)

"If all you know about the Amish comes from seeing the movie "Witness" or passing the occasional buggy by the side of the road, many of the images in Lucy Walker's understated documentary will be jarring. Girls in 19th century dresses chug beer from plastic cups, a small-time Amish crank dealer hides his stash inside a matchbox, and teenagers dance at a raucous party that, apart from the white bonnets dotting the crowd, could be happening anywhere. The great achievement of Walker's film is to show how this is all less incongruous than it seems.When Amish teenagers turn sixteen they are encouraged to leave their communities and experience the pleasures and conveniences of life in the outside "English" world. This period is called Rumspringa (literally "running around") and is intended to ensure that the Amish who come back into the fold will have made a conscious choice to do so. The appeal to free will is well-intentioned, but ultimately disingenuous. When given their first taste of adult freedom, Amish teenagers do what any other teenagers do: they drink too much, have sex, and spend a lot of time driving around in cars. For most teenagers this is just a phase. For the Amish it's the preliminary to the most important decision of their life: whether or not to join the Amish church. The subjects of Walker's documentary are no better prepared for the trials of adolescence than any other group of sixteen year olds, and it comes as no surprise that most of them, after a few tumultuous years, seem ready to return to a way of life that represents family, security, and a rock-solid sense of identity.Rumspringa, an Amish elder says at one point, is really a vaccination. You get just enough of a taste of the outside world so that when you give it up you won't wonder what you're missing. His candor is winning, as is the level-headedness of most of the Amish elders Walker interviews. Her main subjects are the kids, but they are in many ways like deeply religious small-town kids anywhere: confused and self-obsessed, but basically decent, and given to projecting a theological dimension onto the normal pains of growing up. Beneath the strange clothing is a familiar conflict between piety and hell-raising.It's in the interviews with Amish adults that the most intriguing aspects of Amish society are revealed. Despite the horse-and-buggy trappings, the Amish are not opposed to technology per se, just technology that they consider disruptive to their way of life. So cars and televisions are out, but a solar-powered battery charger is fine. (You can imagine a hippie commune reaching a similar conclusion after much earnest debate.) Their attitude towards sex, while hardly permissive, is surprisingly laid-back and pragmatic: a little premarital fooling around can be overlooked as long as it leads to an Amish marriage and Amish children. The adults interviewed for this film come across as relaxed and candid, and have none of the prickly self-righteousness you find in other religious conservatives. Their condemnations of the outside world are rote, without any real heat. It appears that in choosing never to engage the modern world, either as participants or evangelicals, they feel little need to either judge it or defend themselves. In their inwardness, the Amish seem more like Hasidic Jews than Christian fundamentalists.But Hassids still drive cars. Despite their conviction, you still come away wondering how long the Amish way of life can last. In one telling interview, a preacher bemoans the way work has changed. Fifty years ago, he says, Amish children would have stayed home and helped out on the farm. Now they go to work in a factory, get some money, and the next thing you know, they want to buy a car. Now here's a battle that started back when everyone drove a horse and buggy. For family ties and religious values to overwhelm teenage rebellion is the easy part. The hard part comes when an agrarian way of life squares off against factory jobs and pocket money."
Thoughtful, provocative and strangely engrossing
Clare Quilty | a little pad in hawaii | 05/11/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)

"The subject matter of "Devil's Playground" makes it sound like a bad comedy sketch: It's about Amish kids gone wild. That description evokes images of girls in white bonnets partying down, and chain-smoking boys cruising around in their buggies. And while the movie does in fact present such scenes, it's actually a serious, non-glamorizing, non-patronizing look at cultures, religion and youth. When children in the Amish community turn 16, they enter a period called rumspringa, during which they're exempt from the restrictions of the church and are allowed to experience the outside world before deciding whether or not they want to permanently commit to the Amish way of life - they have to face temptation before they can reject it. And the teens in "Devil's Playground" almost immediately take to temptation and what they call the "English" culture like nobody's business. They don baggy jeans and visors and doo-rags, get pierced, absorb videogames and MTV, buy cars and move out of their parents' homes. "If I was living at home," says one Amish teen, "I couldn't have 200 channels of DirecTV, stereo, Nintendo and a fridge full of beer." "Devil's Playground" focuses on several different teens during their rumspringa: One moves into a small trailer and hosts a seemingly non-stop party for two years before he simply decides to go home and commit to his religion. Another leaves behind her family and fiancee so she can go to college, and the scene in which she tries on the plain dark wedding dress she made as a girl but no longer needs is both terribly sad and incredibly hopeful at the same time. But the central figure in the movie is Faron, a preacher's son and a methamphetamine dealer whose life spirals out of control and into serious trouble, on camera. Faron's ups-and-downs are vividly chronicled, and even when he's making terrible decisions he's an interesting and articulate presence. By the end of the movie - at which point it's claimed that about 90% of Amish teens do eventually commit to their religion for life - he's become an unlikely but sympathetic spokesperson for a group he appears to be leaving behind. "Devil's Playground" is a surprisingly sober, thoughtful and provocative film that casts an objective eye on an unusual phenomenon. The DVD includes an incredibly informative commentary by writer-director Lucy Walker, producer Steven Cantor and editor Pax Wassermann, who explain how they got access to the Amish community, how they found their subjects and how they organized the stories and information they gathered."
The Scarlett Letter Meets Animal House
tradermike@timingwal | 03/06/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)

"A few years ago after my grandmother died an Amish family tried to buy her farm. They seemed like friendly God-fearing and simple people to me. I thought that they were naive. Then I saw newspaper stories of how most of the drug trade in her area was being run by Amish and how Amish youth - and Amish "biker gangs" had a reputation for being the roughest segment in the community. The newspaper stories didn't make sense to my preconceptions of what the Amish were like and the typical stereotypes about them.How do you learn about the Amish? Most books written about them or novels/movies with Amish characters are written by people who aren't Amish. This movie deals with Amish youth, but interviews actual Amish people. Now things make sense to me.When Amish turn 16 they begin Rumspringa - which translates into "running around." They have the next 5 years to decide whether or not they will "go to heaven or to hell" as some of the Amish in the movie put it. They leave their Amish way of life to enjoy the comfort and temptations of the outside world. By the time they turn 21 they have to decide whether they are going to return to the Amish church - and way of life - forever - or live in the outside world and be disowned by their family.90% of the Amish return to the Amish church. In the movie you can see why. With little education or job skills they have a difficult finding away to have a good life in the outside world. It easier for them to go back to the stability and comfort of their families - get married and build a family for themselves. As one of the Amish adults in the movie put it - they have a more easy going and stress free life than those on the outside.That's the positive way to look at things. The negative is that they have to give up their independence and individuality to the greater community, which cannot be an easy thing.The Amish use of technology is an example. Cars are dangerous because they would provide mobility and bring Amish to the outside community. TV's provide temptations and would cause Amish to think about leaving. However, a battery pack is no problem. Everything is centered around the larger community.Movie gives a great glimpse into Amish life in their own words."