As a young, evangelical student filmmaker, director Kate Logan originally set our to create a documentary about Christian boarding schools, and the good they were doing in reforming troubled kids. What she found however after visiting the Escuela Caribe school in the Dominican Republic, was that there was something much more sinister happening behind the walls.
Kidnapped for Christ provides an unprecedented peek inside a Christian behavior modification school and shines a light on an appalling $2 billion a year industry. Logan was given access to shoot her film throughout the entire campus as well as do one on one interviews with the students and staff.
After only being there for a few days it was clear that something wasn’t quite right with how the children were being treated, and through her extensive interviews with the kids she begins to realize this isn’t some wholesome place for doing the Lord’s work.
Although the film follows several of the teens, the main focus is of a young man named David, who was torn from his bed during the night and immediately flown to the school without any prior knowledge or preparation. He couldn’t say goodbye to his friends or tell anyone where he was going. So what did David do to deserve such a harsh punishment? Was he failing in school? Abusing drugs and alcohol? Actually, he was a devout Christian who never dabbled in drugs or alcohol and he had a 4.5 GPA in school. The reason David was sent to Escuela Caribe, much like many others, was because he’s gay.
As the film progresses and Kate becomes more attached to the students, the faculty begins putting limits on what she can film and with whom she can talk to. In addition, David asks her to smuggle a letter out to his best friend letting her know where he is and pleading to get him out. This brings Kate into the film itself, as she then becomes a part of the story.
The documentary itself isn’t necessarily the most technically proficient or pretty to look at, but it’s the content that makes it worth watching. It’s a low budget student film, and it feels exactly like a low budget student film. With docs like this however, the visuals and the presentation should always come second to compelling information, which this film has in spades.
While it was nice to stay with the subjects all the way until they are released from the school, I would have been interested to see how the parents of these kids reacted to the treatment they endured. This is something I’m sure the director attempted to do, but they probably weren’t too keen about appearing on camera.
Kidnapped for Christ is a captivating, heart breaking, and at times suspenseful documentary that raises a lot of questions and lends itself to discussion. It should also be required viewing for any parent thinking of sending their child to one of these schools.
I saw this movie last night as part of an LGBT film festival. The trailer led me to believe it focused mainly on a Christian reparative therapy school in the Dominican Republic, not a behaviour modification residential program. I found the film lacking in depth and maturity. While there were some interesting moments, it failed to truly live up to its promise made in the trailer.