When I was a child, my family took a trip to the Pennsylvania Dutch Amish Community. I was completely fascinated by how they lived, how they dressed, and what their lives were like. Since that point, I have always admired their hard work and the way they maintain separate lives while living in the middle of the non-Amish world. I admire how they’ve maintained their values even as the values in the rest of the world decline and disappear. The work together as a community and value that over individuality which is something I really think the rest of the world needs to discover. When I heard that PBS was going to have a program on called American Experience Presents The Amish, which aired February 28, I knew I wanted to watch it.
The Amish was filmed over the course of a year and tries to answer many of the common questions that Americans have about the Amish. The program is a combination of narration and personal stories by some of the Amish people themselves. Because the Amish don’t like having their photograph taken, the interviews are generally conducted facing away from the camer or standing in the shadows. Sometimes pictures of the community farms or faraway shots of people are shown during the interviews. Snips of past programming are cut into the show as well. There are also interviews with Amish experts and anthropologists as well as curators from various Amish museums.
I love the up close and personal view into the Amish life. Not only do you see why and how they think based on historical data and their religious beliefs, you get to see a look into their farm practices, how they dress, how they prepare their meals and what they do for entertainment. The film explores the community’s history along with a look at some of the challenges they face today; many more Amish than ever before work at non-Amish businesses to support themselves and their families.
The film also presents several recent stories that highlight some of the challenges faced by the Amish in dealing with the rules imposed by contemporary society that clash with their way of life. Also included are interviews with several Amish who have left their communities.
If you’re curious about life in an Amish community or would like to learn more about how they live, I definitely think American Experience: The Amish will answer your questions. I would have loved to have seen more interviews with people still within the Amish community and less from people who left because they disagreed with the Amish lifestyle. While I admit that there are some things about the Amish life that would not sit well with me, there is much to be admired and respected as well.