Former Members of Amish Community Reflect on Decision to Leave in "The Amish: Shunned"

Jan 30, 2014

Credit Courtesy WGBH

American Experience: The Amish, Tuesday February 4 at 8 p.m., followed by the premiere of The Amish: Shunned, 9 p.m. on West Virginia PBS

A poignant and penetrating look at what it means to be cut off from faith and family, The Amish: Shunned follows seven people who have chosen to leave their closed and tightly knit communities for the outside world, knowing that they can never return. Each has paid deeply for this decision. Estranged from loved ones, these former Amish find themselves struggling to make their way in modern America. Interwoven with their stories are the voices of staunchly loyal Amish men and women who explain the importance of obedience, the strong ties and traditions that bind them, and the heartbreak they feel when a loved one falls away. Through its sympathetic portrayal of both sides, the film explores what is gained and what is lost when community and tradition are exchanged for individuality and freedom.

Paul Edwards, who joined the Amish church at 17 but was excommunicated after a falling out.
Credit Courtesy WGBH

Produced, directed and written by Callie T. Wiser, who was a producer on 2012’s The Amish. Through American Experience’s in-depth look at the history, beliefs and traditions of the insular religious community, Wiser was exposed to the concept of shunning. “This is one of the faith’s defining practices in which members of the community cut ties with those who choose to leave,” says Wiser. “We touched on it in the first film, but I was interested in delving further into the practice, and finding individuals whose stories would portray the breadth and variety of shunning.”