How to Get to Heaven with the Hutterites

Thu Mar 7, 9-10pm, BBC2

One man’s isolated religious community is another man’s cult. And, as this fascinating documentary suggests, the line between the two is often far from clear. Director Lynn Alleway spent four months with the Hutterites, an American sect whose dress sense, spiritual tradition and facial hair bear a passing resemblance to the Amish. Alleway probes gently at fault lines underpinning gender roles, a limited gene pool and the general, all-pervading sense of utter joylessness. And eventually, she manages a film that’s revealing, thought-provoking and even mildly poetic.

The documentary-makers’ rule of non-intervention is up for grabs here – there’s the sense that, possibly unintentionally, Alleway’s presence may have unblocked a latent discontent amongst the Hutterite youth. The result is a surprising, stirring and strangely beautiful climax as one community member strains against the stifling orthodoxy. There’s more contested religious mythology elsewhere on the BBC tonight as Ifor ap Glyn explores ‘Pagans and Pilgrims: Britain’s Holiest Places’ (8.30pm, BBC4).

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