Utah filmmakers shine documentary spotlight on polygamy problems

Posted: Thursday, February 17, 2011 12:09 am

Joe [left] and Sam in the documentary "Sons of Perdition." Courtesy of Left Turn Films

What is it like, at age 15 or 16, to defy the community that raised you and start your life over in a dramatically different world? The new documentary “Sons of Perdition” (www.sonsofperditionthemovie.com) attempts to answer that question by telling the story of teenage boys who leave or are expelled from polygamous communities in the Beehive State, but don’t know how to integrate themselves into mainstream society.

The film opens Friday in Salt Lake City and will begin a limited engagement at Provo’s Carmike Wynnsong theater on Feb. 25.

Co-directors Tyler Measom and Jennilyn Merten decided to make “Sons” after sensing that there was a deeper story behind occasional news reports about Utah teens who had fled from or been kicked out of Utah polygamist clans. Measom said that such kids are often deeply conflicted, both frightened of their parents and lonely without them, relieved to have escaped, but confused about their new surroundings and fearful for loved ones left behind.

There’s also the small matter hinted at by the film’s title — many polygamist sects consider leaving to be the ultimate betrayal, with the ultimate cost. “Being told that you’re going to Hell is a tough thing for a 15- or 16-year-old,” Measom said.

The film focuses on three teenage boys, and Measom said that he and Merten filmed them for more than two years after gradually winning their trust. The kids wanted nothing to do with the filmmakers at first, but Measom said that he wouldn’t give up on them. “They lived in my house, we bailed them out of jail, we bought them meals,” he said. “We talked to them. We listened to them.”

The MPAA gave the movie a rating of R for the profane language used in some of its emotionally raw interviews. Measom said that the filmmakers appealed the rating, but that changing the movie’s content would be unfair to its subjects. “When these kids swear, they’re angry,” he said.

“Sons of Perdition” has a distribution agreement with the recently debuted Oprah Winfrey Network — after its theatrical run, it will be featured on a new documentary showcase program that will air on OWN later this year. Measom said that because OWN is a new and unproven media venture, the filmmakers don’t know how much Winfrey’s endorsement will help, but they’re hopeful.

“What we hope is that Oprah will do the same thing for documentaries that she did for books,” he said.

— Cody Clark


1 Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.