Watch “The Amish” Chapter 1 (Video)

Speaking recently with someone wanting to film the Amish, I realized it’s been 5 years since the release of PBS’s excellent documentary “The Amish”.

This is one of the films I most often recommend on the Amish, and it struck me that some of you readers might not be aware of it.

After previewing the film in 2012, I wrote the following:

Adding to the Amish commentary is that of various experts and scholars of the Amish, as well as some former Amish.  Though no one was interviewed in front of the camera, there is also quite a bit of footage of Amish themselves, often taken at a distance or in unposed situations.  For instance a Pennsylvania farmer agreed to be captured on film, and the goings-on at his farm appear throughout.  Youth meetings are filmed along with numerous shots of schoolchildren and church gatherings.

One thing that strikes you is that “The Amish” is a visually captivating film, an aspect enhanced by a beautiful musical score.  The cinematographers did well to capture the natural beauty of Amish environs, and the film is quite artistically done.  You can make a good film on the Amish without the stunning visuals, but having them adds a lot to the experience.

“The Amish” is also commendable in its geographical breadth.  Rather than focusing on only one or two settlements, it covers a range of communities.  Besides the PA-OH-IN Amish heartland the filmmakers’ reach extends to settlements in the Northeast and West.  On a personal level I got a special kick out of recognizing some of the speakers and locations and to the filmmakers’ credit at one point I felt like I was almost visiting with friends again.

I also really appreciated a segment following a family inspecting land for a new community.  It brought home the implications of uprooting your family to try to make a go in a totally new area, not knowing if enough families will even join you for your venture to survive.  The Amish story has been one of migration and nowadays with new settlements popping up everywhere that is as true as ever.

You can view the first chapter on Youtube, which I’ve embedded below (the film is actually available in full – 2 hrs – on Youtube, but in a lower-quality format than what you find here).

Otherwise you can also find it on PBS’s American Experience site.

I hope you enjoy!

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    1. Aj

      Its a good documentary. Reminds me of how old American and English documentaries used to be made before the 2000s. Today, documentaries rely on acting. I’ve seen a number of recent documentaries try to show the life of the Amish by portraying former Amish members or Amish-Mennonite groups as though they were Old Order Amish. I also find that those documentaries lack the depth that this documentary and other older documentaries have in presenting the Amish life.

      A documentary should focus on what is real, what actually is true for the subject being documented.

    2. AJ

      I found an interesting website that breaks down language by county and sub-county. You can see what percentage each county speaks a different language. What makes this site really cool is that the sub-county breakdown even shows which parts of the county speak Dutch/German more (therefor has the most Amish).

      Holmes County Amish are strongly concentrated in the south eastern part. The majority of Dutch/Amish speakers in Lancaster County also live near the eastern/central part of Lancaster. Leacock and Bart Townships are the center of the Amish populations, with German/Dutch speakers forming the majority.

    3. Jb

      English tourists

      In the program an Amish man talks about tourists and wonders why they might want to look at the Amish and if it is different than Yellowstone or Disneyland, or is it because the kids are cute…? I really like Amish country. It offends me a little that Amish people discuss tourists negatively and many Amish I have seen in Lancaster were not exactly friendly. I still like the Amish country. The guy in the video also asks if some are seekers. For me, as a child I admired the lifestyle, no tv and electricity especially, and I still do. I think the clothes are nice, a reflection of a certain appreciation of life, and the land is peaceful. I a unique lifestyle is made evident. Is it like Disneyland? Probably some of the dinner theaters are. I have heard of ex Amish opening up some attractions so they can’t exactly blame the Englishers in total. The peace of the farm country is kind of like the beauty of Yellowstone. Nothing wrong with that. I guess in a long winded way I’m trying to say I am disappointed the Amish don’t recognize the admiration people have for them, which makes people like to visit amish country. The Amish claim to emulate the bible phrase of being in the world but not of the world. But what about love thy neighbor as we love ourselves? I can’t say I succeed all the time, but i know it is a good goal. It seems amish people base much of their culture on thinking other people are evil, not even of the same species. Thing is they are visible in our world, they have a unique lifestyle, but they don’t seem too keen on sharing. Oh well. Guess I can sit by the road at a motel and wait for buggies to drive by, and suck in by osmosis a dream of no cars and no tv, except I do feel bad for horses and I see nothing wrong with bicycles. Guess I can wear Amish clothes if I want. Will Amish people like me better, until they hear my accent? Maybe people expect too much from the Amish. Maybe only I do.

      1. Jb


        It is a unique lifestyle made evident…