The Amish are most often thought of in regards to their strict religion, quality workmanship, and their horse and buggy culture. One aspect of their culture and beliefs that has not been well known until recently is the practice of “rumspringa” [running around]. This is a rite of passage given to Amish teens in which they are allowed to experience the ways of the world, or as the title of the documentary suggests “The Devil’s Playground,” for a period of one year. These young adults are allowed to experience the enticements of living in a technological word but they are often also exposed for the first time to the world of drugs, alcohol, sexual pleasure and crime. At the end of the year they choose whether to return to the Amish culture and its lifestyle or to remain in the outside world and its ways.
This documentary follows and interviews Amish teens who pretty much let themselves run wild for the year. As expected some return to the fold and others choose to remain in the outside world. Through the film we come to understand many of the reasons behind the Amish lifestyle and why some desire to return. We can also understand the temptations that American culture has on not just the Amish teens, but teens outside of the Amish culture as well. The film will challenge you to think about the aspects of life that draw us into certain paths which can lead us to be a productive and fulfilling part of society or lead us to a life of poverty and even crime. I found this documentary to be as much about the choices we make as it was about the choices these teens are asked to make. You may find parts of the film disturbing and unsettling. I sometimes found myself asking, “Where were the police in all of this?” Other parts of the film you may find enlightening, or even heartwarming, but I doubt that you will find any of it boring.