Prophet’s Prey (2015; Amy Berg, Showtime Documentary)
Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Even if Warren Jeffs and FLDS don’t ring a bell with you, the image of women in prairie dresses and 19th century hairdos will. These women and their more than 400 hundred children appeared on evening news programs beginning in April 2008, when Texas authorities removed them from the YFZ Ranch near Eldorado, Texas, after a report of child sexual abuse.
Amy Berg’s compelling documentary, based on the book of the same name by Sam Brower, proves a thorough and disturbing investigation into how one very determined man using religion can exercise absolute control over people who want, probably, need to believe. Jeffs certainly isn’t the first to dupe and manipulate people to satisfy his own predilections for control, sex perversion, and financial gain. He is, however, somewhat unique in that though convicted and serving a life sentence for sexual abuse of children and candidly revealing himself a charlatan to his believers (shown in the film), his flock remain faithful, and, many will find this infuriating, he continues to control the church and issue “revelations” from his prison cell.
Megalomaniacal personalities, such as Jeffs’s, fascinate us and have been the subject of interesting and often riveting novels (such as serialized recently on this site), novels that sometimes seem to fictional to believe. Yet, as the Warren Jeffs and Jim Jones of the world illustrate and attest to over and over again, truth truly is stranger than fiction.
If you subscribe to Showtime, you should find in their On Demand offering shortly. If you are not a subscriber, we’re sure the documentary will find its way onto DVD. In the meantime, you might read Brower’s book.
For a sample of what you’ll see in the film, take a look at the Prophet’s Prey trailer. You’ll experience a couple of quite stunning aspects of Jeffs in the trailer. His voice, his monotone cadence, it disturbs and puzzles simultaneously; how could such a voice, such a presentation, lull and mesmerize people into absolute obedience? you’ll wonder. Jeffs in his prison cell, where you see him standing stock-still in an almost catatonic state will have you speculating about what’s passing through his mind? Deception, insane hallucinating, or calculation? w/c