If a believer violates the rules of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, you may have to explain yourself in front of several Elders. It’s essentially an Apostasy Trial. If you’re found “guilty,” you could be disfellowshipped — shunned by other Witnesses, including your own family. (You can see a secretly videotaped version of one of these trials.)
Polish filmmaker Kamila Dydyna — a former Witness herself — is now planning to make a movie called Debutante about one of these trials. In her script, the main character has sex with her boyfriend. The Elders find out and hold a hearing about her sin, a deeply personal interrogation that causes her to rethink her religious ties.
In the film, the exciting energy of young love and early experience of sexuality are met with the unforgiving and violating judgement by the religion elders. It’s a story of how receiving a mindf*ck of cognitive dissonance can shake loose the [fundamentals] of who you think you are.
My intention with Debutante is to avoid a demeaning, hateful or sensationalist approach (as one often used with the subject of Jehovah’s Witnesses) in favour of one more compassionate. Still, it would have been dishonest of me not to mention that my years-old anger at the Jehovah’s Witnesses Governing Body and its policies is very much the beating heart of the narrative.
Dydyna doesn’t hide her feelings, and this is a work of fiction, but it’s also a very real story of how religious leaders can threaten people for the crime of being human.
If you’d like to support the project, please consider going to Indiegogo and chipping in. It’s a film that needs to be made and spread. That site also has more information about Dydyna’s qualifications and past work.