Devil's Playground (2002 film)
|Directed by||Lucy Walker|
|Produced by||Steven Cantor|
|Stick Figure Productions|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Release date(s)||February 4, 2003 (limited)|
|Running time||77 min.|
Devil's Playground is a 2002 documentary film by Stick Figure Productions, directed by Lucy Walker about the experiences of several Amish youths deciding whether to remain in or leave their community and faith during the period known as rumspringa ("running around" in Pennsylvania Dutch). The film follows a few Amish teenagers in LaGrange County, Indiana who enter the "English" (non-Amish) world and experience partying, drinking, illegal drugs, and pre-marital sex. Some teens in the film profess that they will eventually become baptised as adults in the Amish community. If they are baptized, then leave the church, they will be shunned by family and friends; one girl recounts her experience of this.
According to Devil's Playground, at the age of 16, Amish youth are allowed to depart from many of the Amish rules. The young people sample life outside of the Amish community. Many drive cars, wear modern clothes and cut and style their hair in more fashionable styles, get jobs, have romantic and sexual relationships, and some experiment with drugs.
One Amish youth whom the film follows, Faron—a preacher's son—even turns to drug dealing to satisfy his habit. Faron is eventually apprehended by the authorities; he aids them in arresting another dealer. Each of the film's subjects faces a variety of challenges and pressures from both the "English World" and the "Amish World" of their families. Some make the commitment to return to their communities, others do not. One girl is baptized but later leaves the Amish church, resulting in her family shunning her.
According to the documentary, "over 90%" of Amish youth decide to join the church, returning to their communities and families.
The film won the 2001 Sony/AFI DVCam Fest Documentary Category and overall Grand Prize, the 2001 Sarasota Film Festival Audience Award for Best Documentary, and a Jury's Special Mention in the Documentary Category in the 2002 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (Czech Republic). The film was nominated by jury for Best Documentary for the 2003 IFP's Independent Spirit Awards. It was also nominated for three 2002 News and Documentary Emmy awards: Best Documentary, Outstanding Individual Achievement in a Craft: Direction, and Outstanding Individual Achievement in a Craft: Editing.
The film received reviews varying from positive to mixed, averaging 56% at the Rotten Tomatoes aggregator among professional reviewers, and 70% among RT members. Dennis Harvey of Variety stated, "To filmmaker Lucy Walker's credit, results transcend their sensational first impression, thanks to empathetic focus on a few select kids going through enormous changes," and summed it up as "engrossing." Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan called it "one of the best documentaries in the festival (Sundance)", "the film deals in a poignant way with", rumspringa, and "This examination of the life-changing question one teen calls 'to be or not to be Amish' is haunting, provocative and unexpected." Film Threat's Anthony Miele found the film "interesting and informative", but it "alludes to 'document' an entire sub-culture of a particular society, but [...] simply follows one troubled youth, Faron."
- Note: Some scholarship on the subject does not support viewing this as a normative rumspringa.
- Lucy Walker (director) (2002). Devil's Playground. Stick Figure Productions. Event occurs at 1:13:24. "Intertitle: Currently almost 90% of Amish young people will join the Amish church. This retention rate is the highest ever since the founding of the Amish church in 1693."
- "Sony AFI DV Cam Fest". Archived from the original on 2000-12-04.
- "AFI DVCam Fest sponsored by Sony Announces Award Winners" (Press release). AFI Online. May 14, 2001. Archived from the original on 2001-10-22.
- Ratzlow, Dave (January 31, 2002). "Festivals: Raising the Standard: Sarasota". Indie Wire. Archived from the original on 2007-09-26. Retrieved 2010-07-23. "handily won the audience award for best documentary"
- "Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (2002) Awards". Czech Republic: IMDB. 2002. Retrieved 2010-07-24. entry
- "2003 IFP Independent Spirit Award Nominations" (Press release). indieWIRE. December 11, 2002. Archived from the original on 2003-02-24. - Nom. Best Documentary
- "The 24th Annual News and Documentary Emmy Award Nominees". emmyonline.tv. National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. August 11, 2003.
- Devil's Playground at Rotten Tomatoes
- Harvey, David (January 18, 2002). "Devil's Playground (review)". Variety. Archived from the original on 2002-01-18.
- Turan, Kenneth (January 21, 2002). "Women and Their Stories Merit Prizes". Los Angeles Times. p. 4/4.
- Miele, Anthony (October 20, 2002). Devil's Playground (review). Film Threat.
- Stick Figure Productions and Devil's Playground website (Flash)
- Devil's Playground at the Internet Movie Database
- Walker, Lucy. "Devil's Playground - Notes On Completing Devil's Playground". 21c Magazine (1). Archived from the original on 2005-05-24. Retrieved 2010-07-23.
- Edwards, Bob; Walker, Lucy (May 30, 2002). "Amish Teens Tested in Devil's Playground (interview)" (RealAudio). Morning Edition. NPR. Retrieved 2010-07-24.
- Masters, Sarah (January 18, 2006). "Sarah Masters reviews Devil's Playground". Plain Views. Healthcare Chaplaincy. Archived from the original on 2007-10-09. Retrieved 2012-10-05.
- Amazon.com reviews
- Barnes & Noble reviews of Devil's Playground
- Review by Heather McIntosh at Documentary Site