Daily Herald - Utah February 17, 2011
Utah filmmakers shine documentary spotlight on polygamy problems
What is it like, at age 15 or 16, to defy the community that raised you and start your life over in a dramatically different world? The new documentary "Sons of Perdition" (www.sonsofperditionthemovie.com) attempts to answer that question by telling the story of teenage boys who leave or are expelled from polygamous communities in the Beehive State, but don't know how to integrate themselves into mainstream society.
The film opens Friday in Salt Lake City and will begin a limited engagement at Provo's Carmike Wynnsong theater on Feb. 25.
Co-directors Tyler Measom and Jennilyn Merten decided to make "Sons" after sensing that there was a deeper story behind occasional news reports about Utah teens who had fled from or been kicked out of Utah polygamist clans. Measom said that such kids are often deeply conflicted, both frightened of their parents and lonely without them, relieved to have escaped, but confused about their new surroundings and fearful for loved ones left behind.
There's also the small matter hinted at by the film's title -- many polygamist sects consider leaving to be the ultimate betrayal, with the ultimate cost. "Being told that you're going to Hell is a tough thing for a 15- or 16-year-old," Measom said.
The film focuses on three teenage boys, and Measom said that he and Merten filmed them for more than two years after gradually winning their trust. The kids wanted nothing to do with the filmmakers at first, but Measom said that he wouldn't give up on them. "They lived in my house, we bailed them out of jail, we bought them meals," he said. "We talked to them. We listened to them."
The MPAA gave the movie a rating of R for the profane language used in some of its emotionally raw interviews. Measom said that the filmmakers appealed the rating, but that changing the movie's content would be unfair to its subjects. "When these kids swear, they're angry," he said.
"Sons of Perdition" has a distribution agreement with the recently debuted Oprah Winfrey Network -- after its theatrical run, it will be featured on a new documentary showcase program that will air on OWN later this year. Measom said that because OWN is a new and unproven media venture, the filmmakers don't know how much Winfrey's endorsement will help, but they're hopeful.
"What we hope is that Oprah will do the same thing for documentaries that she did for books," he said.
-- Cody Clark
The Daily Utah Chronicle - student newspaper of the University of Utah February 18, 2011
Local film highlights FLDS ‘lost boys’
By Devin Richey
Born into a society that de-emphasizes education, individuality and monogamous relationships, groups of refugee apostates sometimes flee the oppressive, dictatorial world of the modern Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The people in these groups, known as the Sons of Perdition, are rarely given coverage of their hardships out of local news circuits. Local filmmakers Tyler Measom and U graduate Jennilyn Merten decided to document the lives of several people following their liberation from the sect in the new feature documentary, "Sons of Perdition."
The group is separate from the exiled "lost boys" who were banished from "the Crick"—the name for the FLDS communities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.—for breaking the community's strict rules regarding dating and popular culture or because of a shortage of marriageable women. They enter the outside world with no understanding of outside society and its culture. Merten asks a boy at one point if he has ever read a comic book, to which he replies, "What's that?"
"There is no competition allowed in the Crick, either," Merten said. "The kids can play basketball, but they aren't allowed to keep score. The leaders consider competition to be a tool of the devil."
Under the leadership of Warren Jeffs, the proclaimed prophet of the FLDS and a captured fugitive from the FBI's Most Wanted list, male members of the church were assigned marriage partners that could be as young as 12 to 14 years old, even if the polygamous husband was pushing 60 years old. As revealed in the documentary, these girls are given no form of sexual education prior to their vows and their marriages are consummated on beds located within the compound's temple.
Jeffs' recorded sermons can be heard throughout the film, condemning the outcasts and exiles from their ranks and demonizing the outside world to which those groups are headed as sick and evil. He considers certain otherwise normal occurrences such as spousal nagging to be tools of the devil aimed at damaging patriarchal rule. Jeffs is shown in the documentary to have a number of wives himself, many of them younger than the legal age of marriage or sexual consent, nearing 80 years old before his arrest in 2006.
The struggle of the film's subjects becomes especially engrossing and emotional when they begin their efforts to help family members escape. The mother of one of the boys struggles with her decision to leave when her husband, the boy's father, arrived at her new shelter to verbally harass and manipulate her into returning.
The people highlighted in the film have been thoroughly indoctrinated to the point that the church can hold the barrier of ignorance between them and a more fulfilling future. This puts into perspective the astounding hardship overcome by those who actually manage their flee for independence.
Merten and Measom have crafted a powerful documentary around the story of these determined teens and their struggle for a sense of normality and individuality. Although it is clear that the path won't be easy, a sense of hope lingers through the end credits that with perseverance and help from good Samaritans, these people can reform their perspectives and lead fulfilling, prosperous lives.
The filmmakers have associated themselves with the nonprofit group "Holding Out Help," an organization created to aid in the escape and transition of fundamentalist victims from their compounds and into everyday life.
This article was found at:
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