Thursday, February 27, 2014

Kidnapped for Christ (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

“Kidnapped for Christ” To Capture Audiences
With “4 Nights 4 Justices”

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Kate Logan didn’t expect to make an exposé when she started her documentary about a rehab camp for misguided teens located in the jungles of the Dominican Republic.

But what she discovered was a Christian reform school designed to deprogram gays and other teens who didn’t fit societal norms.

As one kid tells it, “One morning I woke up, two guys were at my house. Both my parents are standing there, saying, ‘We love you David, we love you.’ They tied a belt around my waist, dragged me with the belt to their car. I got sent down here because I am gay and my parents they just weren’t okay with that.”

Friends were told he was visiting family, he was across the country. They wanted to know if he was okay. But word was not forthcoming. He was simply “gone.”

Against his will, David found himself at Escuela Caribe, an outpost in Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic. Terrified, he faced the rigors of this American-run Christian behavior modification program.

“Culture shock,” one school official called it.

“I feel like I’m going to lose my mind here,” David says on camera.

Julia Scheeres, a former student at Escuela Caribe and author of the book “Jesus Land,” describes it as “a dumping ground for wealthy evangelicals who have problem teenagers.”

“Escuela Caribe was a place that terrified me while I was there and that still gives me nightmares,” says Scheeres, who was sent there after she was caught having sex with her high school boyfriend.

“Kidnapped for Christ” takes its name from a comment by one of the students: “I still consider being held at Escuela Caribe to be a kidnapping.”

A devout Christian film student who had worked as a missionary abroad, Kate Logan began filming at Escuela Caribe in 2006, hoping to document how the school introduces kids to foreign cultures. In the beginning Logan’s naïve about what’s going on, shocked as she witnesses the school's ritualistic horrors.

Rather than a cultural exchange (the students weren’t even allowed to speak to native Dominicans), Logan discovered “the staff's Orwellian monitoring of letters sent home, of paddle beatings and prolonged isolation periods administered for minor infractions to arbitrary rules.”

When Escuela Caribe became suspicious of Logan’s shifting viewpoint, the film project ground to a halt. Threats from the school and from David’s parents put it on hold. But Escuela Caribe closed its doors in 2011, so the story can now be told.

“Kidnapped for Christ” will be showing at the Tropic Cinema on March 4th as the first film in this year’s “4 Nights 4 Justice” series. And Kate Logan will be on hand to introduce her film, answer any questions, and describe how her documentary flipped from positive to negative.

“4 Nights 4 Justice” is a series of four films spread out over the course of several weeks, allowing every film and filmmaker to get lots of attention. The event is sponsored by a grant made available by the Mike Dively Social Justice and Diversity Endowment.

Michael Dively, a former Key West resident and Tropic Cinema volunteer, created an endowment at the Community Foundation of the Florida Keys to promote social justice and diversity. For the second year in a row, Tropic Cinema won a grant for its powerful “4 Nights 4 Justice” series. In addition to “Kidnapped for Christ,” the Tropic will screen three other award-winning films in the coming weeks.

On her way down to meet with Key West audiences after a similar screening in Ohio, Kate says, “I am quite sure I will like Key West better than Cleveland! I have an idea of the weather I'll face there in March.”

We promised her sunshine. And no behavior modification on an island that invites people to “Come As You Are.”.

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