‘Keep Sweet’ Review: A Legacy of Polygamy in a Religious Sect

“Keep Sweet” concerns the conflicts in two towns on opposite sides of a state line. The area of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., was settled by members of a breakaway faction of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that continued to practice polygamy after the church had banned it.

The group, known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ran what has been described as the largest polygamous community in the country. The sect’s critics have characterized it as a dangerous cult. In 2011, the group’s leader, Warren S. Jeffs, was sentenced to life in prison for the sexual assault of two girls he maintained were his wives.

This documentary, directed by Don Argott, with some interviews filmed as recently as early 2020, charts a rift within the breakaway group. We hear from former members who say they were disturbed by the way Jeffs controlled and isolated the sect, forbidding books and public education for the children. On the other side are those who have stood by Jeffs even after he was convicted and who refuse to believe the charges against him.

The loyalists still shun pop culture and defend Jeffs’s practice of exiling dissenters. But “Keep Sweet” is surprisingly vague on which of his dictates the group has retained. In its second half, the movie tries to show some sympathy for Jeffs’s adherents by turning to a knotty dispute over the ownership of the land, which is controlled by a trust.

When people who had left the group under Jeffs began returning to the area, the followers who had stayed faced the possibility of eviction when they refused to sign legal agreements required by the trust. While the ethical issues of the property situation add complexity, the film’s efforts to balance the arguments on both sides aren’t convincing.

Keep Sweet
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 43 minutes. Watch on Discovery+.

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