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Movie Details

Title:   Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief
Director:   Alex Gibney
Year:   2015
Genre:   Documentary
Times Seen:   2
Last Seen:   01.07.17

Other Movies Seen By This Director (2)
- Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
- Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown

Notes History
Date Viewed Venue Note
01.07.17Internet Molly and I have been watching Leah Remini's series which intersects with this pretty heavily. In some ways, Remini's show takes a deeper dive in specific areas of the cult but in others I feel like this film presents the information and tells the story of Scientology in a more effective and succinct way. I guess the next step is to actually read the book, but I'm never sure when this fascination with cults becomes obsessive. Perhaps it's this subject matter specifically that I'm wary about spending too much time with, since being obsessed with video games or Lego doesn't have any sort of potentially harmful connotations, but either way I'm wary of getting to know TOO MUCH about Jonestown or Manson or whatever. Scientology is extra fascinating/scary though because it's still active. One of these days, Miscaviage is going to get indicted or die and the whole thing will deflate in this crazy real estate auction and it will start to take on nostalgic mythical tones like the pre-RICO mob bosses and silver nitrate film prints. Looking into it now is kind of like seeing The Talking Heads at CBGB's in a weird sort of indirect way. Maybe I'll pick up the book on amazon... hmmm...
03.29.15Internet HBO has been killing it with the docs recently. Citizenfour, The Jinx (which was a miniseries so it didn't get a note on here but holy shit is it great), and now this. I don't think I've seen more hype and promotion surrounding a documentary on HBO before. Hopefully there won't be any disappointing backlash because of it because, while I did get a sense that this doc would blow the lid off of the whole thing and dish all the dirt and blow my mind, it is still just a movie. I think it presents the story and controversy around the cult in a really cohesive and comprehensive way but we don't get Travolta taking off his wig and sucking cock on camera.

To me the most important aspect of this film is that it WAS hyped and promoted by HBO to such a huge degree. I get the sense that this film is a dare to David Miscavige and scientology as an organization. It seems to be saying "PLEASE fuck with us." On reddit a lot of hubbub was made about HBO hiring some huge number of lawyers to vette the film and everything presented here comes straight from first-hand accounts of ex-scientologists. The bizarre anti-propaganda campaign put on by scientology is pretty minor compared to some of the stuff that's talked about in the film but there have still been multiple news stories reporting their actions.

Social context aside, the film is really good. Learning about L Ron Hubbard's life gave me a ton of context for Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master and makes me want to revisit it. Seeing interviews from the senior members that have left the church and now speak to raise awareness was really fascinating. Especially when it plugs into other news stories that I remember from a few years ago like that BBC special and Paul Haggis' letter and the Tom Cruise video leak that was parodied to death. The terms and lore of scientology are explained, some surprisingly draconian inner practices are brought to surface... The film doesn't deal as much with how badly some ex-members have been fucked or a few other facets (really Travolta and Cruise are the only celebrities mentioned in any detail) but for a 2-hour doc they still presented a ton of information.

So... it would be so great if this movie was the tipping point and we see others come forward to bring the curtain down. Certainly Cruise and Travolta should hopefully catch some shit from us Suppressive People in their life. While watching I was thinking about what the allure of scientology is to me... like celebrity gossip is one thing but there's so much weirdness and oddity surrounding the subject that like... why do I even care? And I had a thought as I was mentally comparing how similar these interviews were to the interviews in that amazing Jonestown doc from several years ago. Scientology is the only cult I know about BEFORE all their members commit ritual suicide or kill a bunch of innocent people. Everything else always bubbles to the surface after the carnage... Jonestown, Waco, those comet dudes... I heard about those because everyone died. With Scientology, they're still walking around!

This movie shows pretty clearly how crazy David Miscavige is. I feel like it's only a matter of time (granted it's probably later rather than sooner) before he turns into David Koresh or Charlie Manson.
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