PBS film on Amish made with respect (preview included)By Sheldon C. Good Mennonite Weekly Review
A landmark documentary on Amish faith and life will debut on PBS at the end of February. The two-hour film is a production of American Experience, television’s most-watched history series.
The Amish will air at 8 p.m. EST Feb. 28. A 10-minute preview is available at the end of this article.
Filmed over the course of a year, the documentary tells stories from Amish communities across the U.S. Because Amish traditionally do not show their faces on camera, production was challenging for the film crew.
“In our 23 years, with almost 300 films completed, this was the most difficult that we’ve ever made,” Mark Samels, executive producer of American Experience said in the film’s press release.
Anabaptist scholars who study the Amish — Donald B. Kraybill, Steven M. Nolt, David L. Weaver-Zercher — and author Karen M. Johnson-Weiner are interviewed in the film. The credits list Kraybill as a consultant and Nolt as an academic adviser.
Kraybill, the senior fellow of Elizabethtown (Pa.) College’s Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies, said other documentaries on the Amish have been shorter and more regionally focused.
The Young Center website lists five documentaries on the Amish.
“This is a landmark documentary because of its breadth, quality and integrity and because it will be shown widely on PBS,” he said. “This will give it stature and significance for years to come.”
Over the last decade, dozens of producers have come to Kraybill wanting to do films on the Amish. With one exception, a 2007 production by Mennonite filmmaker Burton Buller, he has said no — until now.
“I agreed to do it because I felt the filmmakers were sincerely interested in a documentary that would have integrity, a sense of history and would respect Amish moral and cultural boundaries,” he said.
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