American Experience Presents The Amish, February 28
With breathtaking cinematography, The Amish is a deeply affective exploration of Amish people and communities throughout the United States. American Experience (PBS) will broadcast The Amish on Tuesday, February 28, 2012, 8:00 – 10:00 p.m. (check local listings). The program is also available on DVD.
Participants in the program include Amish men and women in anonymous voice interviews, former members of the Amish church, anthropologists, historians, sociologists, and others who have professional experience with various communities (such as a coroner, an assistant public defender, a former commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police). The documentary, written and directed by David Belton, explores daily life, religious ideals, personal philosophy, and the relationship of the Amish with surrounding communities.
Bucolic views of farms and countryside are interwoven with surprising scenes of Amish children at play on a trampoline and teens at a local festival enjoying popular music and socializing among their non-Amish neighbors. Providing a brief history of the Amish Church, The Amish focuses on Amish life and the struggle to maintain steadfast values in a changing world.
The Amish was filmed over the course of a year, and it is divided into four segments by the seasons. It addresses many of the questions and myths Americans have about the Amish community, its traditions, and its place in the world, not of the world. Adults and teenagers discuss their lives and aspirations, and give voice to their religious commitment which includes “strict adherence to 300-year-old traditions.”
The notorious October 2, 2006, Nickel Mines classroom tragedy (in which ten girls were shot, five killed, by a non-Amish milk truck driver holding them hostage) and ensuing events are also described, with attention given the forgiveness extended by Amish community members, including the parents of the dead girls. It is a moving record of loss and clemency.
The Amish is available as a single DVD, or as part of a two-DVD combination with The Power of Forgiveness (examining “the healing power of forgiveness and the critical role it played in the 2006 Nickel Mines tragedy”). It is a remarkable historical analysis and view of contemporary life that raises questions about freedom of religion in American life.