Documentary Film on the Plautdietsche in Mexico

Dokumentarfilm Ueber Plautdietsche in Mexiko

Wiens, Peter. "Documentary Film on the Plautdietsche in Mexico." Volk auf dem Weg, July 2006, 28-29.

Translation from the original German-language text to American English by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado

During the summer of 2005, the well-known TV network National Geographic Channel started on its international series called "No Borders." It is a new project directed toward productions of innovative documentary films and is aired in 153 countries and in 27 languages. On July 10, 2006 this series [was to] open in Germany via the documentary film "A Perfect World" (cf. the info given below for dates and times).

The 70-minute documentary film, produced by the Italian film company Societa L'Immagine, deals with internal conflicts within a Mennonite community in Mexico which is torn back and forth between the demands of tradition and the pressures of progress. Concerning an airing of the film at the Goethe-Institute in Rome, one can read the following on the film on the Internet pages of the German language and cultural consultant:

Ierard (Gerhard) Hiebert and his tractor: among the conservative Mennonite colonies in Mexico and Bolivia, rubber tires are taboo, for religious reasons ...

"In some Mennonite colonies in the Mexican desert of Chihuahua, life happens just as it did 200 years ago. Until the arrival of electricity begins to change gradually their 'perfect world.' Denial toward technological progress has led to the fact that the most conservative among the Mennonites have withdrawn to one of the most isolated places in the world - the Bolivian jungle. The film tells the story of four persons from the Mennonite colonies of El Sabinal, where any form of modern technical innovation is banned, and of El Capulin, which in very recent times, has opened itself up to a few innovations such as electricity and the automobile. The residents of these communities are descendants of a few Baptist (Re-Baptized) groups who, due to religious persecution, fled from central Europe about 500 years ago. They scattered all over the world in order to search for that one locale where they might be allowed to practice their religion, unhindered and in the old language of their original ancestors, that is, Plattdeustch (or Plautdietsch).

Documenting excerpts from Plautdietsch Lives -- the Italian producer and filmmaker Diego D'Innocenzo at work with Mennonites in Mexico
The two colonies are located about 70 kilometers [over 40 miles] apart. Both have preserved the characteristically typical images of a farming village of Germany of the 18th Century (large families who are engaged in farming, women's clothing of erstwhile Prussian origins, old horse-drawn carriages). At the same time, the two communities are independent of one another, and each has its own traits and peculiarities. El Sabinal is removed from time and space. In that way the community has been able to maintain its own identity and to lead strict and pious lives in accordance with the commandments of the Bible. Radio, television, music, automobiles, and electricity are taboo, because in the eyes of these Mennonites they represent the worldly consumer society. In contrast, the community of El Capulin has recently opened itself up to the outside world and has begun to embrace technical innovations such as the automobile and electricity.

The film presents the history of four Mennonites from these two colonies. A part of them remains caught up in the past, the others can no longer resist the attraction and the impressions of the exterior world."

Thus far we have followed the description by the Goethe-Institute (see For Germans from Russia in Germany, the film might be of special interest simply because one of every ten of them has a German-Russian- Mennonite or at least a Plattdietsch roots. The Association of Plattdietsch Friends of Oerlingshausen/Detmold was involved in the production of the film (transcription and translation) and views "A Perfect World" as an excellent documentary film on the Plattdietsch language.

A Perfect World - airings to start after the Soccer World Cup ( ... followed by a listing of airings that took place during the week following the World Cup, in July, 2006 0-- additional info available at

Plattdietsch-Freunde e.V.
Moritz-Ruelf-Str. 5, 32756 Detmold
(Office hours: Tue, Thu: 8 AM - noon)
Tel. [from US: ] 011-48-5231-30898-18, fax -19,

Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation of this article.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller