The towering red cliffs above the O.C. Tanner Amphitheater in Springdale played host to one of DOCUTAH’s most anticipated films Friday night.
Attorney General Sean Reyes, St. George Mayor Jon Pike and hundreds of citizens gathered to watch “Prophet’s Prey,” a film based on the bestselling book by Sam Brower, a private investigator and producer. The evening included a benefit dinner, film viewing and a question and answer session.
The film, directed by Amy Berg, details Brower’s several year journey to bring justice to the abuse victims of Warren Jeffs, the self-proclaimed prophet and leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-day Saints. The film offered a rare glimpse into the rise and fall of Jeffs and the legacy of damage inflicted upon his followers.
In a press conference before the benefit, Reyes praised the film for its power to inspire change.
“We need citizens to step up and be a voice, and Brower has shown great courage in creating a film that lends a voice to people who may not be able to express their own views or perspectives,” Reyes said. “Hopefully it emboldens people to come forward and help us in law enforcement.”
Phil Tuckett, assistant professor of communication, said he was thrilled to have “Prophet’s Prey” highlighted by the festival.
“[Brower] is John Wayne for real—even if there are no cameras,” Tuckett said. “He lives and embodies the role of a courageous enforcer of the law and rights of human dignity, and we are so proud to have his film.”
The evening was co-hosted by Holding out Help, a non-profit organization, which provided a dinner before the viewing. Executive Program Director Tonia Tewell said the services they provide assist people with the difficult transition from polygamy to independent life.
Sarah Jeffs Draper, special guest and niece of Jeffs, delivered impassioned words about her struggle that left some in the crowd choking back emotion.
“I am here because there are loving people willing to help,” she said.
Dixie State University President Biff Williams welcomed the audience before the viewing.
Williams said: “We can learn a lot through documentary film. There is no better location than to be here to learn about how we can help people that can’t really help themselves.”
“Prophet’s Prey” is a behind-the-scenes look at Brower’s 10-year investigation into the FLDS church and the countless abuses against Jeff’s followers and members of his own family. It documents events that happened in their community and went unnoticed and unpunished for many years.
Brower said he felt the venue at Springdale was the most important of anywhere it had been shown because of its proximity to the homes of those involved.
“The people here are the ones that had the courage to come out and talk about it,” Brower said. “To say it’s a wonderful thing is an understatement. This is where the rubber meets the road.”
Doug Fabrizio, reporter and radio talk show host, led a question and answer panel after the show with Reyes, Brower, Draper, co-producer Katherine LeBlond, and former members of the FLDS church: Ben Thomas and Thomas Jeffs.
Thomas left the FLDS church in 2013. He discussed the destruction to his family, the pain caused from losing his children and the fear of his daughter being victimized.
“I have no idea what she is doing,” Thomas said. “I don’t know where she is.”
Reyes, having been raised in a family of filmmakers, said he was impressed with the film and the “fine line” it walked with the message.
“The [filmmakers] were not judgmental about the merits of a particular religious belief,” he said. “They were judgmental about the use or manipulation of people through those religious beliefs to subjugate them.”
Brower said he hopes the increased attention the film has received at DOCUTAH will make a difference in the coming years.
“I hope the [public] are moved to action and people who watch the film will be touched by it,” he said. “The hope is to bring awareness.”
“Prophet’s Prey” will be released nationwide in October and will play on Showtime.