Switzerland, 2012, 87 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Colorado, Documentary, Family Issues, Religious, Social Issues
No sex before marriage, not even a kiss? Teenage girls who attend a Purity Ball, a chastity rite performed with their protective fathers, agree to remain “unsoiled” until Jesus sends along Mr. Right. In Virgin Tales, director Mirjam von Arx follows the Wilsons, evangelical Christian founders of these events, for an entire year as they plan for a ball.
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Randy Wilson and his wife, Lisa, devote themselves to purity from their home in Colorado Springs. They shelter their seven children—two sons and five daughters—by homeschooling and preaching conservative Christian values. The two eldest daughters married men with similar beliefs, but Jordyn, age 20, has not yet found a husband. Von Arx records Jordyn speaking into her video diary as she explains she prefers womanly pursuits such as etiquette and baking to college. Although the film is shot in present-day Colorado, the message harks back to a 1950s mentality, complete with hope chests and charm schools. And it is catching on: Purity Balls are now held in 48 states.
With up-close access to the Wilsons at home, at church, and at the Purity Ball, von Arx withholds judgment as she documents their devotion. Randy, national field director for Church Ministries at the Family Research Council, even invites her to accompany him to Washington, D.C., where he promotes an anti-abortion political agenda. At the ball, von Arx films the almost surreal purity rituals with careful detail. Little girls in virginal white dresses dance around a life-sized crucifix before the father/daughter ring ceremony and written pledge of abstinence. In Virgin Tales’ final scenes, von Arx presents statistics showing that those who vow to remain “unsoiled” are about as likely to abstain as those who do not take the pledge, but that if they do have premarital sex, they are unlikely to use birth control.
- JOEY PORCELLI
In cooperation with NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado
DIRECTOR: Mirjam von Arx
Producer: Mirjam von Arx
Editor: Sabine Krayenbühl
Screenwriter: Mirjam von Arx, Michèle Wannaz
Cinematographer: Kirsten Johnson, Claudia Raschke