The following article only appeared in print. A scan of the article is available HERE.
Growing up a Witness
The Week (UK), August 4, 2018 – page 10
In his remarkable debut film, Daniel Kokotajlo draws back the curtain on a strange world, says Rachel Cooke in The Observer. Most of us know very little about the Jehovah’s Witnesses – but Kokotajlo, 37, was once a Witness himself. When he was eight, growing up in Manchester, his mother was converted by a “nice old couple who talked about the fact that the end of the world was coming, and [how] all our problems would be fixed. It was very appealing, growing up where we did.” They stopped celebrating birthdays and Christmas, and Daniel had to dress in a suit and go around knocking on doors. Doubt set in only slowly. “When I first read Darwin, I thought: ‘This makes so much more sense than the Bible.’ But then, when we joined the Witnesses, I’d felt the same way: there was this key to the universe and everything was clear. ‘All these idiots around us,’ we thought: ‘They don’t know.’” Now an agnostic, he hasn’t attended a meeting since he was 22 or 23; but his mother hasn’t given up hope of him rejoining the sect. “Witnesses just expect you to come back,” he says, laughing. “It’s like northerners thinking you’re just going through a silly phase living in the south.”
The Week (UK), August 4, 2018 – page 29
Scalpel-sharp drama about Jehovah’s Witnesses
Apostasy was made for about one three-hundredth of the cost of the latest Mission: Impossible film, said Deborah Ross in The Spectator. Yet it has an impact out of all proportion to its budget. This finely scripted, superbly acted British drama stars Siobhan Finneran as Ivanna, a single mother in present-day Lancashire, who is raising her daughters in the faith of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The older daughter (Sacha Parkinson) questions the faith she has been brought up in and falls pregnant to a non-believer. The younger (Molly Wright) is haemophiliac, but following orthodox practice, abjures medical help. (As her mother puts it, to “mess with the Lord’s design is a sin”.) The drama plays out on the faces of the actresses, which director Daniel Kokotajlo captures in intimate close-up, said Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian. In their different ways, Wright’s gentleness and Parkinson’s growing anger are equally painful to watch. Kokotajlo, who was himself raised by Jehovah’s Witnesses, shoots his film in a stark, apparently non-partisan, almost documentary style, said Geoffrey Macnab in The Independent. Yet his portrait of “an inflexible and intolerant organisation” is “devastating”.
References and quotes in the above articles in The Week are made from the following:
- The Observer: Apostasy director: ‘It was liberating to leave the Jehovah’s Witnesses’
- The Spectator – Fascinating, powerful and brilliantly done: Apostasy reviewed
- The Guardian – By the grace of god (slightly edited version of article originally published online 9th October 2017)
Scan of print article available HERE.
- The Independent – Apostasy review: Nuanced insight into the lives of Jehovah’s Witnesses