Wednesday, 22 March 2017

My Scientology Movie (2015)

Fig 1 - My Scientology Movie Poster
I've been a big fan of Louis Theroux's for some years now, so news of My Scientology Movie hitting the BFI website after it's limited UK release in 2016 was music to my ears. I've been fascinated and terrified by what I've heard about the religion, having listened to extensive accounts by outspoken ex-church members such as Leah Remini, who tells a story of abuse, brain-washing and lies. So naturally when I heard that Theroux would be examining the church from the outside-in, I was immediately on-board.

From the outset, the film's creators have clearly accepted that the church wants nothing to do with this documentary. In fact, Theroux himself receives several letters during it's production which adamantly state that legal action will take place if they continue. But as they persist, the crew realise how heavily-guarded the reputation of the religion has become, bringing with it a feeling of being constantly watched, which quite often they actually are. Theroux meets with several ex-church members in order to seek the truth, primarily travelling around with the former organisation-head Mark Rathbun. The two decide to cast for a series of reenactments involving current church heavyweights such as Tom Cruise and David Miscavige. With the aid of the first-hand experience of Mark Rathbun, they manage to find a suitably terrifying Miscavige and an equally unhinged Cruise, who allow the crew to recreate some sinister accounts of Rathbun's time in the religion.

Fig 2 - My Scientology Movie - An encounter with Scientologists
Ultimately, it was a well-constructed demonstration of how to make a documentary about something that wants nothing to do with you. For those going in with no prior knowledge of the religion, this feels like something akin to a beginners guide. Those already informed and going in looking for more however, will find very little here. Speaking as the latter, I found the casting process and the reenactments to be the most entertaining element of the documentary. They highlighted the truly disturbing nature of the accounts from the 'inside', all of which felt justified by Mark Rathbun's approval and often stunned silence.

I wouldn't call it an instant classic in terms of documentaries. I wouldn't even say it's Theroux's best work, but it is an interesting insight into a secret and all-too-real society. The film did provide some archive footage I'd not seen and bizarre encounters with church members seemingly creating a counter-documentary, but overall the 'pay-off' seemed to bring the film to a rather abrupt close and I would have liked to see someone really dare to investigate from within.


Fig. 1 My Scientology Movie Poster (2015) From: My Scientology Movie - Directed by: John Dower

Fig. 2 My Scientology Movie Screenshot (2015) From: My Scientology Movie - Directed by: John Dower

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