Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (image 1)

The cult is right to be scared… Watching this stuff, instead of merely reading about it, somehow makes Scientology both more ridiculous and more chilling.

Bilge Ebiri, New York

Screened as part of NZIFF 2015

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief 2015

Directed by Alex Gibney

Alex Gibney’s documentary sensation, based on Lawrence Wright’s best-selling history of Scientology and its apostates, gets the big screen treatment it deserves.

USA In English
120 minutes DCP
Exempt

Director

Producers

Alex Gibney
,
Lawrence Wright
,
Kristen Vaurio

Screenplay

Alex Gibney. Based on the book by Lawrence Wright

Photography

Sam Painter

Editor

Andy Grieve

Music

Will Bates

With

Lawrence Wright
,
Mark ‘Marty’ Rathbun
,
Monique Rathbun
,
Mike Rinder
,
Jason Beghe
,
Paul Haggis
,
Sylvia ‘Spanky’ Taylor
,
Sara Goldberg
,
Tony Ortega
,
Kim Masters

Festivals

Sundance 2015

Elsewhere

The Church of Scientology hates this film. When it was released in the US in March, the organisation sent a five-page letter to the Hollywood Reporter denouncing ‘bigoted propaganda’. It took out a full-page ad in the New York Times. And it opened a belligerent Twitter account, firing off ad hominem attacks at director Alex Gibney. All par for the course. As is laid bare in this affecting, gobsmacking film, which draws on Lawrence Wright’s acclaimed book of the same name, Scientology’s retaliations know few bounds. The courage of the apostates who agreed to blow the whistle on camera can hardly be overstated.

Lucid testimonies from former executives and adherents, among them screenwriter Paul Haggis (Crash, Casino Royale), stand in contrast to the glossy and sinister exhortations of David Miscavige, who rose to succeed the charismatic fantasist L. Ron Hubbard as high priest of the multibillion-dollar church. New footage of celebrity disciples John Travolta and Tom Cruise, who is shown preaching the legacy of LRH before thousands at a Scientology rally, is at once riveting and discomfiting.

Beyond the fascination and kookiness of the self-help parables, e-meters and alien emperor foundation myth, Going Clear paints a chilling picture – all of it denied by the Scientologists – of a ‘church’ that lavishes riches on its favourites and metes brutality upon dissenters and their families. It also confirms the status of Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Mea Maxima Culpa, We Steal Secrets: The WikiLeaks Story) as America’s preeminent contemporary documentary filmmaker. — Toby Manhire