Lyrical and meditative, The Amish answers many questions Americans have about this insistently insular religious community, whose intense faith and adherence to five hundred year-old ... See full summary »

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Episode credited cast:
Steve Ballan ...
Himself - Assistant Public Defender
Janice Ballenger ...
Herself - Assistant Coroner
David Furlong ...
Himself - Husband of Saloma
Saloma Furlong ...
Herself - Former Amish
Gertrude E. Huntington ...
Herself - Anthropologist
Karen M. Johnson-Weiner ...
Herself - Anthropologist
Donald B. Kraybill ...
Himself - Sociologist
Dwight Lefever ...
Himself - Pastor to the Roberts Family
Jeffrey Miller ...
Himself - State Police Commissioner
Steven M. Nolt ...
Himself - Historian
Levi Shetler ...
Himself - Former Amish
David Weaver-Zercher ...
Himself - Historian
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Lyrical and meditative, The Amish answers many questions Americans have about this insistently insular religious community, whose intense faith and adherence to five hundred year-old traditions have by turns captivated and repelled, awed and irritated, inspired and confused for more than a century. With unprecedented access to the Amish built on patience and hard-won trust, the film is the first to deeply penetrate and explore this profoundly attention-averse group. In doing so, it paints an extraordinarily intimate portrait of contemporary Amish faith and life. It questions why and how the Amish, an insistently closed and communal culture, have thrived within one of the most open, individualistic societies on earth. Written by Anonymous

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TV-PG
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28 February 2012 (USA)  »

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16:9 HD
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A Shot at Eden
21 December 2014 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Whatever you may think of the Amish, they certainly make a good spectator sport - ironically, since they disapprove of photography because it breaks the second commandment (graven images).

But millions of American tourists flock to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, for a few hours of escapism, watching a frozen moment of German village life in 1520, to the sound of the pony-and-trap, overlaid with religious chants that have (presumably) remained unchanged all that time.

Those tourists are watching American individualism rejected in favour of family solidarity, community service and a distinctly arrogant belief that they alone shall be saved. Either the Amish themselves or the producers of this film have shied away from specifying what exactly is off the menu. At one point, we're told that it includes all 'man-made devices', yet those carriages and harnesses didn't manufacture themselves. And if they're really talking about an Eden of pure, unsullied nature, I would suggest that when man first tamed the horse, most people would have called it profoundly unnatural.

It is easy to sneer at the inconsistencies, and there is no doubt that many of the faithful do derive spiritual sustenance from these unchanging values. A big test was their reaction to an Amish school shooting that cost the lives of five small girls. Their immediate reaction was to forgive the killer (posthumously) in the presence of his family. One of them said "I was so grateful that I did not have to make a judgment on his soul. That was God's territory." He described the sensation as a 'wash of peace'.

Actually the Amish schools have earned a good deal of respect from outside, and public sentiment has discouraged the authorities from jailing parents for not sending their children to the local public schools. But it is at the school-leaving age that the awkward questions start to emerge, yet remain unanswered. The clip of a very innocent-looking teenage party on the lawn, with the genders apparently segregated, does not broach what we might discreetly call the glandular issue. And in any case, I can't help suspecting that cynical things may be going on behind the gleaming white raiment of holiness, as they have in so many other priesthoods.

An hour and fifty minutes gives us plenty of time to hear stories from long-term believers and a few dropouts, as well as neutral commentators from academia. One girl quit the Amish to marry and work outside, to the fury of her family, but the spell of the faith drew her back. The young men, predictably, sound unsure of their beliefs and work prospects. The film is interspersed with useful title-frames that deliver key facts about the Amish. Less effectively, it is divided-up into the four seasons, in a way that does not seem to be reflected in the subject-matter.

Perhaps after all, those tourists feel that they may be watching the last chapter of a noble history, as we now see young Amish men working in factories that are unmistakeably hi-tech, and families needing to look for cheaper land, on which to continue their traditional farming life, Colorado being apparently a firm favourite. Maybe the famous Pennsylvania Dutch dialect may soon be heard ringing across the thirsty prairies of the West - a long way from well-watered Lancaster County.


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