A&E IndieFilms has ordered an untitled documentary feature film from Vice Media-owned indie Pulse Films that will focus on the controversial treatments of faith healing.
Directed by Tom Dumican (pictured), the film will chronicle Idaho’s political and ideological struggle over religious shield laws in real time by documenting an Idahoan religious sect known as the Followers of Christ whose members reject modern medical care and instead turn to prayer, laying on hands and anointing with oil to heal the sick – including children.
Idaho coroner’s records between 2011 and 2014 reveal 12 child deaths between 2011-2014 in the faith healing community. The Governor’s Task Force on Children at Risk report for the same period confirms 10 of those deaths were caused by treatable ailments, but medical treatment was not sought. Due to Idaho’s religious shield laws, there have been no prosecutions.
“This film raises fascinating issues on the very fabric of our country – such as the separation of church and state; and what the role of government is in protecting its citizens,” said Molly Thompson, SVP of feature films at A+E Networks, in a statement.
The film will profile Followers of Christ member Dan Sevy and his family as they seek to defend their right to reject medical treatment for their children under Idaho’s religious shield laws. Sevy and his wife have lost two sons: Gabriel in 2008 and Rockwell in 2011.
The as-yet titled doc features exclusive interviews with active and former church members, law enforcement officials and Idaho- and Oregon-based activists, where religious shield laws have been repealed leading to convictions for manslaughter in faith healing cases.
The film marks Dumican’s feature film directorial debut.
The documentary will air on A&E following a run theatrically and on the festival circuit.
“This film is a study of a part of the American religious psyche told through the eyes of the believers, survivors, law enforcement and politicians who walk the blurred lines between church, state, personal freedom and children’s rights,” added Dumican.
The production stable of A&E IndieFilms, the feature doc production arm of A+E Studios, has most recently included Roger Ross Williams’ Life, Animated; Matthew Heineman’s Cartel Land and City of Ghosts; and Erik Nelson’s A Gray State.
Vice Media acquired a majority stake in the UK- and U.S.-based Pulse Films in March 2016 in order to further produce long-form content for the network internationally.