What started as a simple school project by a young filmmaker turned into something much darker and terrifying in “Kidnapped For Christ,” which airs tonight at 7:30 on Showtime.
Evangelical filmmaker Kate Logan was granted access to Escuela Caribe, a school for troubled teens in the Dominican Republic with the intention of just showing what life was like at the institution with a mission to help troubled teens. However, what Logan found under the sunny facade of the school’s Christian behavior modification program was anything but with the teens in the program receiving alleged physical and emotional abuse, degrading punishments imposed by its staff and easily making these kids’ lives worse before making them better. She quickly changed course in her coverage and her unprecedented access provided the footage that is seen in this 85-minute documentary.
In the film, Logan talks with several teens at Escuela Caribe including gay teen David, a 17-year-old honor student from Colorado who was sent there after coming out to his parents. David serves as an example of a young person with a lot of promise who fights to keep himself from drowning in the school’s toxic environment.
Earlier this year, “Kidnapped for Christ” won the Special Jury Award at the 2014 Nashville Film Festival and the Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 2014 Slamdance Film Festival. The film is executive produced by Lance Bass, Mike C. Manning and Tom DeSanto and is presented by Redthorn, in association with Look Closer Media.
Manning took the time to field some questions about how he became involved in the project and what he hopes it does to help other teens out there in a similar predicament as the subjects we meet in the film.
How did you first become involved in the film?
Mike C. Manning: David was a friend of mine from Colorado. I met him after he was sent to Escuela Caribe, but he never really wanted to talk about it. Fast-forward to a few years later when he was in LA to meet with Kate Logan for a follow-up interview. He finally told me the whole story and at the end of it I just said, “How can I help?”
Kate’s access is really tremendous with footage with staffers and kids in the school. How did she accomplish this without the staffers realizing what she was doing?
MCM: It was really sort of a “perfect storm.” She was attending a Christian film school at the time and actually wanted to shoot some footage at Escuela Caribe for her senior thesis project on the GOOD THINGS they were doing for teens. Because of this, they gave her access to live on campus and film… which soon changed her mind about the type of story she wanted to tell.
David said he was told he wasn’t there because of his sexuality but even he doesn’t seem to believe that in the film. Was that the primary reason for a lot of the kids being put in the school?
MCM: The fact of the matter is that parents can sign a contract and have their child taken away to these camps for ANY reason. Once there, the child is viewed as ‘property’ that is under the care of the camp/school/facility/whatever they wanna call it, without any sort of government regulation dictating a level of treatment these teens deserve.
One of the shocking things in the film is that these places where kids are sent are not regulated. Could this film change that?
MCM: We sure hope so. There’s a section on www.kidnappedforchrist.com where people can contact Congress and help push to change this.
The school in the film is in the Dominican Republic. Do we find out about other schools/institutions that operate similarly?
MCM: Yes. There’s a graphic towards the end of the film that illustrates just how many ‘schools’ there are in the US and elsewhere – more than most people expect.
What did you personally learn from your involvement in the film? What’s next for you?
MCM: I really enjoyed working with Kate Logan, Lance Bass, Tom DeSanto and Red Thorn Productions to make this film a reality. I’ve discovered a passion within myself to create projects that raise awareness about social issues like these. Kate and I are producing another documentary right now called “An Act of Love,” and I plan to continue to create meaningful projects under my newly-formed production company Chibber Mann Productions, along with my producing partner Vinny Chibber. Thanks for asking! I’m excited.
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