Institutionalized abduction examined in ‘Kidnapped for Christ’
Forcibly taken in the middle of the night by strangers, isolated and trapped miles from home, forbidden contact with the outside world; it sounds like a setup for a horror flick. For American teenagers sent to Escuela Caribe, such terrors were all very real. The Slamdance Film Festival documentary feature "Kidnapped for Christ" relays the heartbreaking story of a world where religiously deluded adults attempt to literally beat same-sex attractions and non-conformist behavior out of vulnerable children.
Serving as a missionary in the Dominican Republic, director Kate Logan learned of Escuela Caribe through interactions with staff members that made it out as an alternative form of therapy for teenagers that might otherwise have ended up as delinquents. Excited by the prospect of a program that was changing lives, Logan returned as a film student to document how the school was saving troubled teens. Instead, she discovered a nightmare set in a tropical paradise.
Filmgoers watch as teenagers are separated from those who care about them, forced to run in the hot sun without rest, threatened with the "paddle," and told time and again to "submit." In a chilling mirror of the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment, young, inexperienced staff members are given absolute power and control over the teenagers, including the power to punish those who deviate from behavioral norms.
The film closely follows David, a teenager sent to Escuela Caribe because his parents "could never love a gay son," as he struggles with the loss of his happy, successful life and as he attempts to survive an existence where his sexual orientation is seen as a sign of a "deeper issue." As David approaches his eighteenth birthday over the course of the film, his indefinite detainment shows no signs of drawing to an end.
The making of "Kidnapped for Christ" had a profound effect on Logan, once an enthusiastic evangelical Christian she now describes herself as an agnostic. Explained Logan, "I think the experience definitely impacted my faith a lot. The biggest thing to me was constantly hearing how the staff at the school believed God had called them."
More than simply a film, "Kidnapped for Christ" is an appeal for the end of institutionalized child abuse through better monitoring of reform schools and more public awareness of the techniques used by so-called "therapeutic programs." "Kidnapped for Christ" relays the cult-like atmosphere of one such program school and the terrors that haunted its victims.
"Kidnapped for Christ" is a documentary feature at Slamdance at the Treasure Mountain Inn, 255 Main St. The next screening will be:
Wednesday, Jan. 22 at 11:30 a.m. in the Main Screening Room. For more information and tickets visit http://www.slamdance.com.
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