Movie Review Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey (2022)

A multitude of former FLDS members paint a disturbing picture of the church’s way of life; interviews with talking heads help us more or less understand the groupthink brainwashing that gave meaning to this way of life, their experiences then sometimes being recreated with grainy film re-enactments. We hear about one of Warren Jeffs’ brothers (of the over 30 brothers Jeffs has) and husbands who participated in polygamy and now sit in armchairs with one of their wives. The heroes of the series are undoubtedly the brave women like Elissa, Rebecca, Alison and Ruby, among others, who helped expose the church, after experiencing their own devastating realizations about what was really happening to them at such a young age. age. As one person put it, words like “rape” weren’t even part of their vocabulary, even though that was what they were experiencing.

It’s all horrible, sickening and monstrously traumatic. And “Keep Sweet” repeats that trifecta of feelings throughout, all with a story that’s not about an elaborate plan, but about maintaining so many institutions and ideologies, taken to their extremes. And that trifecta is also what makes the series seem limited in its specific focus; it’s the main and constant course, even when it details something new, like an enigmatic video about how women have to braid their hair in an ornate way, or watching children sing some type of hymn that extols the idea of ​​”keeping it smooth” (a creeping motto of Warren’s father, Rulon, for his followers and his line of wives).

The series’ tone, its most complex feature, helps show that this saga has a more complicated presence of light than just the stark darkness of such horror. In Jeffs’ stories of insidious acts, the series also instills a sense of loving bonds between parents and their children, or romantic relationships that began alongside other relationships of abuse and statutory rape. Some people really found love, even though the community and the kids were still manipulated by whatever Jeffs wanted. He adds a more uplifting air to his never-before-seen home photos and videos, where the many smiling faces and pastel dresses of young FLDS girls are never ominous and cult. But you believe that at those times the promise of salvation filled their souls and gave meaning to everything else.

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