Powerful drama of Pennsylvania Mennonites and an outsider..
The title of this film changed shortly after its release and was renamed "Hazel's People" (also its video title) and was presented nightly for years at the "People's Place" Amish attraction in Intercourse, PA in the heart of Penna. Dutch country. The amazing thing about this venue is that the film is anything but a paint-by-numbers whitewash of the ways of modern-day new order Mennonites but an incisive view of a Mennonite family stunned into the reality of the outside world when their son is beaten to death at an unnamed NY university protesting the Vietnam War. His best friend (portrayed with brilliant integrity by a then-slender Graham Beckel in the best role of his career), must deliver a message to the Lancaster family and his long-haired, unkempt demeanor quickly brings the family and community's deep rooted prejudices to the surface. Beckel struggles with this hypocracy and perceives quite accurately that the Mennonite family suffers the same jealousies, insensitivities and cruelty of the modern world when fear and hatred are justified by religious unity. The film pulls few punches and sports the accomplished casting of the great Geraldine Page and under-used Pat Hingle as the parents who grow to understand their limitations as parents and believers. The film survives its painfully low budget by the strength of its timeless and potent storytelling. A small and unheralded gem that portrays the lifestyles of the more conservative Mennonite better, in its own way, than "Witness" did in its superficial view of the Amish. Simple, smart and courageous- ***1/2 SCRAPPLES
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