Devil's Playground (2002 film)

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Devil's Playground
Red-tinted DVD cover with the film title featuring a girl in white Amish-style bonnet and dark plain dress, seated in the back seat of a car, lighting a cigarette.
DVD Cover
Directed by Lucy Walker
Produced by Steven Cantor
  • Velda Bontrager
  • Joann Hochstetler
  • Emma Miller
  • Faron Yoder
  • Gerald Yutzy
Stick Figure Productions
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date
Running time
77 minutes
Language English

Devil's Playground is a 2002 American documentary film directed by Lucy Walker about the experiences of several Amish youths who decide 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 baptized 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—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.[2]


The film Won the 2001 Sony/AFI DVCam Fest[3] Documentary Category and overall Grand Prize,[4] the 2001 Sarasota Film Festival Audience Award for Best Documentary,[5] and a Jury's Special Mention in the Documentary Category in the 2002 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (Czech Republic).[6] The film was nominated by jury for Best Documentary for the 2003 IFP's Independent Spirit Awards.[7] 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.[8]

Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 56% of nine surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating was 6.4/10.[9] 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."[10] 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."[11] 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."[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "25 NEW FACES OF INDEPENDENT FILM 2002". Filmmaker. Retrieved 2014-10-22. 
  2. ^ 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. 
  3. ^ "Sony AFI DV Cam Fest". Archived from the original on 2000-12-04. 
  4. ^ "AFI DVCam Fest sponsored by Sony Announces Award Winners" (Press release). AFI Online. May 14, 2001. Archived from the original on 2001-10-22. 
  5. ^ 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 
  6. ^ "Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (2002) Awards". Czech Republic: IMDB. 2002. Retrieved 2010-07-24.  entry
  7. ^ "2003 IFP Independent Spirit Award Nominations" (Press release). indieWIRE. December 11, 2002. Archived from the original on 2003-02-24.  - Nom. Best Documentary
  8. ^ "The 24th Annual News and Documentary Emmy Award Nominees" (PDF). National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. August 11, 2003. 
  9. ^ "Devil's Playground (2002)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2014-10-22. 
  10. ^ Harvey, Dennis (January 18, 2002). "Devil's Playground (review)". Variety. Archived from the original on 2002-01-18. 
  11. ^ Turan, Kenneth (January 21, 2002). "Women and Their Stories Merit Prizes". Los Angeles Times. p. 4/4. 
  12. ^ Miele, Anthony (October 20, 2002). "Devil's Playground (review)]". Film Threat. Retrieved 2014-10-22. 

External links[edit]