Thursday, July 10, 2014

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Kate Logan on Religion, the Making of 'Kidnapped For Christ,' and Her Love For Documentaries

Kidnapped For Christ director and
producer Kate Logan.
Tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET/PT, Showtime will premiere Kidnapped For Christ, a powerful, award-winning documentary that chronicles the shocking truth behind Escuela Caribe, a controversial Christian behavior modification program in the Dominican Republic for "troubled" U.S. teenagers. Evangelical filmmaker Kate Logan hoped to document how a boarding school of this nature could help struggling youth. She soon discovered the school was subjecting teens to brutal punishment, humiliation, and abuse. One of the students she encounters is David, a 17-year-old sent to the camp after coming out to his parents as gay. With her faith tested at every turn, Logan struggles to help at least one teen escape from his horrific surroundings and reveal the truth about Escuela Caribe.

Serial Scoop spoke with Logan about the horror of Escuela Caribe, what it was like to question God and religion for the first time, what's next for her, and the power of having Lance Bass on her team. As Logan put it, "It's really meaningful to a lot of survivors of these types of programs to have celebrities speak up for them - it gives visibility and credibility to their suffering and hope that things will change." Read our exclusive interview with the brutally honest and fascinating Kate Logan below:

SERIAL SCOOP: Kate, initially you truly believed in Escuela Caribe. Can you explain what it felt like when you first understood the atrocities that were taking place?
KATE LOGAN: I remember feeling very, very conflicted. It's one thing to hear about Christians doing horrible things in the name of Jesus, but it was an entirely different experience living with them for a summer. I became friends with many of the staff members, most of whom were close to my age and whose faith was very similar to mine. Most of the staff members weren't "bad" people, they were just implementing a program that those in authority told them would ultimately help these teens. That's no excuse for the harm they caused and the abuse they failed to report, but it made me realize that I too could have easily been on the other side of this scenario - and that scared me.

I also constantly felt somewhat guilty for continuing to be friendly with most of the staff all while knowing I was going to expose the horrors of the school they worked for and ruin many of their reputations. However, in the end, it was so clear that these vulnerable students were being harmed, some irreparably, and that even the "nice" staff members needed to be held accountable. They were the ones choosing to work there and to ignore the rampant physical and emotional abuse going on around them, if I glossed over their complicity in the situation I would be no different.

SERIAL SCOOP: There were a lot of people who worked for Escuela Caribe who were convinced they were helping.
KATE LOGAN: I think that nearly all the staff at Escuela Caribe truly thought they were helping these kids. However, some of the staff also truly loved to inflict pain on students through arbitrary and unfair rules and punishments. The "good" (for lack of a better term) staff members generally didn't inflict more pain than was prescribed in the program. The "bad" staff members, people who in any other environment would probably be bullies or just assholes, took their unchecked power and ran with it - causing untold harm on those trapped with them. However, it's the staff members who were generally "good" people that are the most scary to me. Seeing these people do so much harm to the students made me realize just how susceptible we all are to blindly following authorities who tell us to do things to others.

SERIAL SCOOP: As a woman of faith, how did it impact you as a person to question everything that you had previously believed to be true?
KATE LOGAN: Before I made this film I was a very devout evangelical Christian. A major part of being an evangelical is believing that God speaks to you personally and so I looked to God for guidance all in areas of my life. There were countless instances in my life when I felt God "calling" me to do something. When I got to Escuela Caribe I met many staff members who were very similar to myself in this regard. Nearly all the staff members had a story of how they felt God calling them to work for Escuela Caribe. Because of this circular reasoning (God called me here so it can't be wrong) they ignored the many warning signs that this ministry was doing more harm than good. It's easy to see people who are evil or crazy and say "that's not like me." It's another thing to see people who are just like you doing horrible things, much less in the name of your religion.

When I got home I remember always wondering how it was that I feel God called me to expose Escuela Caribe and they thought God called them to work here there. These questions nagged for years after filming, and I found myself unable to pray in the way I used to. Eventually I moved away from the Christian faith all together because I never again wanted to claim that I had heard directly from God. I wanted a faith (or the lack there of) to leave me room for doubt, nuance, and shifting understanding of the world around me, and being an evangelical did not do that for me.

SERIAL SCOOP: What are your religious beliefs now?
KATE LOGAN: I consider myself agonistic now. I leave room for those beliefs to change, but for now I like questioning everything and I doubt that I would ever "commit" to a specific religion again.

SERIAL SCOOP: Your feelings about gay people changed?
KATE LOGAN: At the time I did believe that being gay was a sin. I took the standard "love the sinner, hate the sin" stance that's common among evangelicals. However, after meeting David I never once wished or prayed that he could not be gay anymore. I just couldn't. Meeting him really changed my beliefs on that issue in a profound way.

Kidnapped For Christ executive
producer Lance Bass.
SERIAL SCOOP: In a recent interview that Serial Scoop conducted with Mike C. Manning, he mentioned that David was a friend of his. When you were fighting to get this documentary made, how did it feel to have the support of people like Mike, and Lance Bass, on your side?
KATE LOGAN: Having Mike and Lance (and Tom DeSanto our other EP) involved was critical in getting the film finished and out to the public and I am so very thankful for these guys! I have to say, having a former N'Sync member on my team is surreal, I had a poster of Lance in my bedroom as a kid! I also think it's really meaningful to a lot of survivors of these types of programs to have celebrities speak up for them - it gives visibility and credibility to their suffering and hope that things will change.

SERIAL SCOOP: What else kept you going as you fought to get this film made?
KATE LOGAN: I had many amazing friends and family members who supported me and who joined in my efforts to help complete the film and expose Escuela Caribe. I also drew strength from former students of Escuela Caribe, many who sent messages of support, assuring me that my work was important and thanking me for speaking up. Those messages meant more than they will ever know and helped me keep going when it seemed impossible to finish the film after so many years.

SERIAL SCOOP: Kidnapped for Christ is premiering tonight on Showtime. How does it feel to see your documentary receive this exposure?
KATE LOGAN: It's still very strange to me that strangers will see my film and (hopefully) be impacted by it. It's also very validating that we have gotten such a great network to distribute the film. After so many years of hard work and increasingly large credit card bills, it's fantastic to see our film on a major network - makes it all worth it.

SERIAL SCOOP: Anything else you would like to share with the public?
KATE LOGAN: First of all - make sure to take five minutes and write your representatives asking them to pass legislation that would monitor and regulate residential programs for teens.  Also, for those without Showtime, the film will be coming out on other platforms in the coming months, as well as screening at a handful of film festivals around the country. You can check for updates at kidnappedforchrist.com.

SERIAL SCOOP: What is next for Kate Logan?
KATE LOGAN: Glad you asked! I am currently producing a documentary called An Act of Love on Methodist minister Frank Schaefer, who was defrocked for officiating the wedding of his gay son. Should anyone feel compelled to donate to that you can do so at http://www.anactoflovefilm.com.

I am also developing a project on the first full marathon in Haiti with the lovely Dhevi Natarajan, and starting a podcast with my dear friend and fellow former evangelical Drew Persons. I truly love documentary films and hope to have a long career creating meaningful and provocative non-fiction content.

RELATED:
* Award-Winning Documentary 'Kidnapped For Christ' Coming to Showtime July 10th
* EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Mike C. Manning on His 'Youthful Daze' Character and Producing 'Kidnapped For Christ'
* New 'Kidnapped For Christ' Trailer Released, Award-Winning Documentary Premieres on Showtime July 10

Michael Goldberg is a freelance writer, producer and actor based out of New York. He regularly contributes television and web series features to Serial Scoop.

1 comment:

  1. Is there any way to find out more about David in the film, post Escuela Caribe? I mean, without violating his privacy, how is his relationship with his parents? I read where he no longer calls himself a Christian, etc. It must be very difficult to think of your parents the same way after such a horrendous betrayal.

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