Silent Screen Partners
Some of the backers of “Pilgrim Aflame"--about Michael Sattler, founder of the Mennonite and Amish religions--won’t be in the audience when it opens next year.
Mennonites and Amish donated the $1-million budget. But the Amish religion bans modern conveniences like electricity and phones in the home . . . and going to the movies.
And so, “Even though it’s about Michael Sattler, the Amish can’t see it,” explained Dan Beachy, an Amish who works at the Menno-Hof, the Mennonite and Amish Visitor’s center in Shipshewana, Ind. “The horse-and-buggy Amish (100,000 in North America) must keep unspotted from the world.”
“Pilgrim Aflame” is rated PG, but there are “no exceptions,” insisted Beachy. Most movies, he said, show “unpure things like sex and drinking which are not conducive to a good, pure Christian life.”
However, Beachy said, “The Amish feel good about the principle of the movie, which I understand is historically accurate, and we’re glad others will see it.”
As for the Mennonites: “It’s the buzz among Mennonites (360,000 in North America),” claimed exec producer (and Mennonite) D. Michael Hostetler. “It’s in all our newspapers--and people are anxious to see it. We’ve been raising money for four years. (News of the film isn’t in the Amish press, which carries only church news.)
Filmed on location in West Germany, Switzerland and France, the movie, directed by Raul Carrera, follows the saga of radical Anabaptist Sattler, circa 1525. Norbert Weisser (he’s had roles in “Midnight Express,” “Heaven’s Gate,” and “Walker”) stars.
The arch heretic left his German monastery, broke with the Roman Catholic Church, married, preached pacifism, separation of church and state, and voluntary baptism. As a result, he was imprisoned and tortured (his tongue was cut out) and he was killed by being tied to a ladder and thrown into a fire. His wife, a former nun, also refused to renounce her beliefs, and she was drowned.
According to producer Bob Nowotny, the generosity of European Mennonites--who cooked meals, sewed hundreds of costumes, donated horses and even appeared as peasants--saved about $1 million in production costs.
This is a first from Sisters and Brothers of Goshen, Ind.--composed of seven budding Mennonite film makers.