Sons of Perdition
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Sons of Perdition, premiering tonight at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, is a film about the Lost Boys that has been in the works for several years and it promises to be the best of the best on this subject. The producers / directors are Tyler Measom and Jennilyn Merten. They were moved by the plight of the Lost Boys and have been working with them for four years now. This film is very accurate, no fluff, no over-dramatization, just a real honest raw look at this tragedy. Tyler and Jennilyn are remarkable people with hearts of gold and an amazing commitment to their work.
From the Tribeca website:
Cast & Credits
Primary Cast: Bruce Barlow, Joe Broadbent, Sam Zitting, Jon Krakauer, Kevin Black, Sam Brower
Director: Tyler Measom, Jennilyn Merten
“There are no monogamists in heaven,” proclaims Warren Jeffs, the notorious (and now incarcerated) leader and “prophet” of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. For decades, the church’s followers have practiced polygamy, believing dozens of young wives and scores of children bring them closer to God, but as Jeffs’ cultish influence over the community grows, they soon find themselves sacrificing their freedom of thought. But what was life like in the sheltered world the Jeffs created? What does it mean if you leave? For a group of teenage boys, the desire for autonomy means banishment from their homes and families. Directors Tyler Measom and Jennilyn Merten spent more than two years documenting their struggles—from enrolling in school, getting jobs, and meeting girls to helping other family members break free. Measom and Merten fascinatingly follow the lives of these three exiles and the challenges of being on their own in mainstream America. But at the same time, they seamlessly interweave the former lives that they are running away from, creating a picture that is both inspiring and heartbreaking. Measom and Merten have a made a gripping story of new beginnings and hope that most of us could never imagine. –David Kwok
Both of us were raised in the mainstream Mormon Church (LDS). For Mormons, the church is part of every aspect of your life, and growing up, it felt like an extended family. But for so many reasons—some superficial, some profound—each of us made the decision to leave in our early twenties. It was a life-altering experience. When you leave your religion you gave up your faith, your community, and often your family, for the frightening privilege of searching for a new belief system, and you hope, in the process, that you’ll find yourself. But for a while after leaving, Hell still had the bright color and heat of childhood. More than a decade later, this act of leaving remained an important personal, intellectual, and even political issue for us. We birthed many friends, and even some of our siblings through the process of “losing your religion.” So in 2006 when we heard about Utah’s “lost boys”—the hundreds of teens exiled from their polygamist community of Mormon Fundamentalists—we saw something poignantly familiar and incredibly extraordinary in their story. Although we too were curious about the inner-workings of polygamy and Warren Jeffs, the group’s dictatorial prophet, we hoped to tell that more private and elusive story of searching for a place to belong after you’ve left everything behind. Many boys were kicked-out by Jeffs, and many more were deliberately marginalized by the religion and left on their own. It was tempting to simply applaud their escape, but the consequences were and continue to be enormous. The teens that leave are denied access to their parents and siblings, and are quite literally condemned to hell. In the eyes of their community, and even their families, they’ve become “Sons of Perdition.” When we first met some of these teens they were semi-homeless, without identification, basic education, or adult guidance. They were resourceful enough to find drugs, alcohol, and a few nights in jail. But they all wanted something better for themselves—a chance to go to school, to do their own thinking, to talk to a girl or go on a date, or as one of the boys said, “just to find out who you are.” From the beginning it was clear that the story was a much about material survival, as it was about spiritual redemption. It was also clear we would need to earn the kids’ trust. Although the teens’ fundamentalist sect broke with the Mormon Church over a century ago, we still shared enough religious texts and history to speak the same language and have a few sacrilegious laughs. Likewise, our own stories of leaving (though certainly less traumatizing) helped us bond with the kids, and to think about how the film might spur a dialogue about faith and family, and the search for selfhood that sometimes leads us away from both. Religion and faith can be sensitive issues to cover, but the boys’ attitude toward their community helped inform our approach. While the kids dislike what their community has become under the control of Warren Jeffs, they miss their families intensely and refuse to blame them. In the film there are similar moments of tension between their longing for home and the joy of their abrupt freedom. It is in these moments that we hope the film asks how we can protect faith while protecting its young practitioners? And perhaps more difficult, how can “losing one’s religion” remain a freedom and a value not purchased at such a cost? Although we no longer believe in the same heaven our parents do, we still remember the worlds of our childhood faith: “families are forever.” Ultimately we hope our film title becomes obsolete because our teens are no longer a “son of perdition” but somebody’s son.
Tribeca is a very big, very important film festival, founded by Robert DeNiro and it gets more attention than any other festival in the country. Out of about 10,000 entries, Sons of Perdition was accepted to premier at the festival, a huge honor. Not only that, but they were also one of twelve films out of thousands selected to take part in the World Documentary Competition that is being held at Tribeca this year and also the SilverDocs competition (one of ten accepted out of thousands). Many of the Lost Boys will be in attendance, and the media will follow them during their stay in New York for production of a short piece in the future. After each screening there will be a panel discussion with experts and noted philanthropists and activists. If any of you are in New York and want to attend, I believe they opened an additional screening, but I’m not sure if there are tickets still available. The panel discussion I believe is open to all.
Sons of Perdition sold out within an hour of the box office opening.