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MAKING a documentary about Amish teenagers abusing drugs and alcohol presents some obvious problems. Young people from a community that won't use electricity aren't so eager to be shown on camera using crystal meth. And the Amish religion forbids picture-taking, anyway.

So "Devil's Playground," which has its premiere Thursday night on Cinemax, is something of a coup. Lucy Walker, a first-time director, talked her way into the extremely private world of an Old Order Amish community in LaGrange County, Ind., to follow a group of young people as they suddenly encountered the outside world.

The Anabaptist faith practiced by the Amish includes the belief that only adults who have made a conscious choice to join the church should be baptized. In this strict sect, the result is rumspringa - "running around" in Pennsylvania Dutch. When children in Amish families turn 16, they are free to experience the world. For some this means listening to rock music or driving cars; for others it means getting drunk or high. For some it lasts a week, for others years, and some, of course, don't join the church at all. But more than 90 percent do, according to the film, and the Amish take them in whenever they are ready.

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