‘My Scientology Movie’ directed by Louie Theroux premieres at Tribeca Film Festival
By Micaela Itona
Perhaps all you know about Scientology is that Tom Cruise is a prominent figure to the ‘religion’, or friends tell you that the ‘church’ has been debunked as a pyramid scheme in which its members have to pay an increasing fee to reach a higher status within the association. Defining what Scientology is and does is very difficult, though many have tried.
Director Louie Theroux, famous for a stint at the BBC directing a slew of crazy documentaries, tackles the mystery shrouding the Church of Scientology alongside ex-member Marty Rathbun in the Church’s headquarters in Riverside County, California.
Theroux’s documentary isn’t so much an informational piece as it is an attempt at a tell-all, expose type of report. Rathbun, an ex-member of the Sea Org- the equivalent of the presidential cabinet to the church- was enlisted by Theroux to recreate some scenes in a private studio based on events alleged to have happened between the highest members of the church and David Miscavige, the official leader of the church of Scientology.
Compared to HBO’s “Going Clear” (2015), Theroux’s “My Scientology Movie” is much less educational and topical, and more about getting into the mindset or recreating the perspectives of members of the Church of Scientology. He wants to find out what ensnares new members, what prevents them from leaving? The film is peppered with interviews of ex-members that had spent decades on the Sea-Org, and none of them said their peace without expletive-laden tirades.
Watching the documentary makes you feel as if you’re somewhere you’re not supposed to be – David Miscavige’s offbeat smiles in his television appearances, Theroux’s nervous glances at his film crew, and Rathbun’s heightening tension and anxiety through the film all put the viewer in the place of someone who was trapped in Scientology’s snares. As a higher member of scientology, you run the risk of being followed, stalked, surveilled, for the rest of your life by other scientology members or face whatever comes your way as you climb up the Scientology ranks.
Throughout the documentary, Theroux and his crew are consistently confronted in almost every filming site by people telling them to leave and asking what they’re doing. They film Theroux’s crew filming back at them, but they never answer questions straight or reveal their names. The documentary’s tagline makes sense at this point – Theroux is making a movie about Scientology, but is Scientology also making a film about Louie Theroux?