BEHIND THE STORY
While on a trip to the Mennonite colonies in southern Bolivia, chance found me staying on a farm belonging to a Mennonite father whose behavior seemed somewhat odd. Months later, that man's face was on the news all over the world: he was in prison, arrested along with other Mennonite men, accused of the serial rape of dozens of women, teenagers and children from the Manitoba colony.
I decided to go back to Bolivia, to write and film a documentary on what we don't know about the inward-looking Mennonite society. We know that Mennonites reject technology, and cut themselves off from modern society.
However, I was interested in shedding light on other aspects of their lives: the lack of real schools; the true reason why they are not allowed to study anything but the Bible and basic arithmetic; the vulnerability of women; the religious punishments for those who disobey the rules; the conflicts facing the young people, who feel all the more drawn towards the forbidden iPods and video cameras they see in the cities.
These subjects come together in the story of a young father who lives in the Manitoba colony facing a painful dilemma: continuing with the life that oppresses him, or leaving the community, against his family's wishes. In contrast, four rebel Mennonites, who abandoned their traditional life in the colonies but did not deny their faith, decide to embark on a project whereby hundreds of Mennonite children will have access to a complete education.
Mennonites, Alone in Paradise documentary explores the question of whether the Mennonites are able to make a conscious decision regarding their faith, and the strict rules that govern their lives.