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Devil's Playground
Directed by: Lucy Walker
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under: documentary
Watch it when you’re in the mood for something: serious, true?!?
The critic says: / 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: /5 

Plot synopsis Mention the Amish and most people picture drab-garbed farmers with funny haircuts, plain-faced women with a prim white covering tied over their hair, a quaint, peaceful, old-fashioned folk who still plod around in horse-and-buggy while the rest of the modern world zooms on by in their shiny new cars. Devil's Playground is a look at the rather extraordinary world of Amish teens who, when they turn sixteen, are given their first and only opportunity to get out from the community and experience the modern world — in all its glory and excess, vice and sin. It's a rite-of-passage called Rumspringa, and the idea is that these teenagers need to see what else the world has to offer before they can make an informed decision about whether to return to the Amish community and join the church as adults. The film follows a group of several boys and girls as they explore booze, drugs, sex, rock-n-roll, video games, television, the whims of teen fashion, and other aspects of the "English" (non-Amish) world, wrestling with both the usual teen dilemmas of crushes and young love, and the decidedly unusual dilemma of whether to give up all the freedom, fun, and convenience of modern America in order to become a full-fledged member of the church and community they've been brought up to believe in .

Review "Amish kids got the best parties," claims one "English" teen in Devil's Playground. This here is the Amish like you've never likely never seen them before: boogying-down, chain-smoking it up, getting trashed, partying harder than even your average rebellious American teen. Devil's Playground is one of those documentaries whose subject matter is so damn intriguing, it's almost irrelevant that the film itself isn't shot in the most compelling manner. So let's get the negative stuff out of the way first: Devil's Playground isn't the best-paced documentary, nor is it particularly artistically-notable. It's a pretty straightforward PBS-style, talking-heads sort of flick, with just a hair of MTV-inspired sensationalism tossed in at the beginning, which means that it sometimes gets a little sluggish, occasionally feels a little manipulative. And then there's the problem that the stories of the various featured teens aren't equally interesting: in particular, the story of Faron soon begins to take over, as the ordinary problems of regular Amish teens just can't compare to the trials and tribulations of a drug dealing, crystal-meth-addicted, trainwreck of an Amish teen, who also happens to hope to follow his father's footsteps into a life as a preacher. But when you think about the fact that the Amish are usually so reluctant to be photographed by the outside world, Devil's Playground begins to seem like a pretty extraordinary film despite its flaws: this thought-provoking, eye-opening documentary gives you a rare, rare glimpse into an incredibly rich, complex, world that you probably never even knew existed. —reviewed by Yee-Fan Sun

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