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Devil's Playground

4.2 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews

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(Feb 04, 2003)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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 21st century pleasure. "Sensitive, revealing and at times heart-wrenching." --Ad Crable, Lancaster New Era

This Sundance Festival sensation has attracted attention because of its jarring images of Amish kids immersed in debauchery: plain-dressed girls in white bonnets slugging back beers and flicking ashes from their cigarettes, boys passing out in the back of pickups after all-night parties, even Amish teens in bed together. But like a good drama, it's the characters themselves and their heartbreaking dilemma that linger in the mind. In the Amish vernacular, "Devil's Playground" refers to the "English" or outside world. The protected teens are suddenly thrust into this world upon their 16th birthday as they begin "Rumspringa," a period during which they decide whether to join the church as adults. Crystallizing this predicament is the 73-minute documentary's most compelling figure, 18-year-old Faron, a preacher's son fighting drug addiction. His earnest intent to return to the church and astonishing articulateness makes his misadventures in the drug underworld and penal system undeniably poignant. --Kimberly Heinrichs

Special Features

  • Deleted scenes

Product Details

  • Actors: Velda Bontrager, Mark Bontrager, Dewayne Chupp, Dylan Cole, Matt Eash
  • Directors: Lucy Walker
  • Producers: Caroline Stevens, Carolyn Cantor, Daniel Laikind, Julie Goldman, Mandy Stein
  • Format: Color, Dolby, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Wellspring
  • DVD Release Date: February 4, 2003
  • Run Time: 77 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00007GVM0
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #64,130 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Devil's Playground" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mervin E. Horst on August 13, 2003
Format: VHS Tape
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.
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Format: DVD
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.
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Format: DVD
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.
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