“Keep Sweet” concerns the conflicts in two cities located on either side of a national border. The domain of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, was settled by members of a dissident faction of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who continued to practice polygamy after the church banned it.
The group, known as The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints led what has been described as the largest polygamous community in the country. Critics of the sect called it a dangerous sect. In 2011, group leader Warren S. Jeffs was sentenced to life in prison for sexually assaulting two girls he claimed to be his wives.
This documentary, directed by Don Argott, with a few interviews filmed as recently as early 2020, traces a rupture within the separatist group. We hear from former members that they were bothered by the way Jeffs controlled and isolated the cult, banning books and public education for children. On the other side, there are those who supported Jeffs even after his conviction and who refuse to believe the charges against him.
Loyalists always avoid pop culture and defend Jeffs’ practice of exiling dissidents. But “Keep Sweet” is surprisingly vague on which of its dictates the group has retained. In its second half, the film tries to show sympathy for Jeffs adherents by turning to a thorny dispute over ownership of the land, which is controlled by a trust.
When the people who had left the group under Jeffs began to return to the area, the supporters who remained faced the possibility of being kicked out when they refused to sign the 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 are not convincing.
Unclassified. Duration: 1 hour 43 minutes. Watch on Discovery +.