Underage sex seemed to the the unintentional thread that connected most of the films I was able to catch at this years New Zealand Film Festival. The first of these films was a documentary: Sons of Perdition. Whilst the documentary didn’t really have anything to do with the aforementioned subject, you can’t really produce a documentary about the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints without at least referencing Warren Jeffs an what he was arrested for.
But Sons of Perdition isn’t so much about Jeffs or his extreme FLDS sect. It isn’t even about the polygamous community that he he created and still tightly controls, even from the confines of his prison cell. Though Jeffs and his strictly enforced ideals are responsible for the subject matter of this revealing documentary that takes a look at the seldom discussed products of a closed polygamous community, the teenage boys that either escape or are expelled for not following the rules (or just because a polygamous sect cannot exist with a surplus of eligible boys, soon to become men).
Focussing on three boys, Joe, Bruce and Sam, Sons of Perdition shows us the hardships these boys suffer, either because they escaped or were thrown out. For one, they are no longer allowed to live in the community, or have any contact with their family, their siblings or their mother.
They are abandoned to a world that they know nothing of, where they don’t know what to do, a world that doesn’t really know what to do with them.
Soon enough however the boys find the vices that are now open to them, drugs and alcohol, both of which are embraced because, the way they see it, they’ve already been told that they are going to hell because they’ve left the true church, so why not have fun sinning.
There is however some degree of support for the boys, and one by one they mostly get back on track.
It’s at times funny, but mostly a sad indictment on a religious system that promotes the abuse of young girls and women, and abandons surplus males to a world that is alien to them.
Directors Tyler Measom and Jennilyn Merten do a great job showing us this unique point of view that most of us would never have considered, but is one of the many issues caused by Warren Jeffs desire to control the lives of others for his own fulfillment.
Reviewed by: Jonathan Read