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SYNOPSIS: Following a long fascination with the religion, and with a lot of experience dealing with eccentric human behaviour, incomparable British broadcaster Louis Theroux won't take no for an answer when his request to enter the Church of Scientology's Los Angeles headquarters is turned down. Theroux's insatiable curiosity motivates him to understand what life inside the Church is really like, and with the aid of former second-in-command at the Church, Mark 'Marty' Rathbun, he uses archival footage and actors to replay incidents people claim they experienced with high profile members such as Tom Cruise (Rob Alter) and leader David Miscavige (Andrew Perez).

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Louis Theroux, the British 'iron fist in a velvet glove' documentarian, has teamed with director John Dower to make a film which 'shows how the sausage is made' by not editing out some elements that a traditional filmmaker might erase - as well as by placing himself in the frame, like Michael Moore does. He is implicit in telling the story, which in this case is a combination of investigative journalism and re-enactment.

If he can't get access to Scientology's top honcho, David Miscavige, he hires an actor (Andrew Perez) to recreate scenes whose script is taken from actual speeches or provided by 'escaped' senior Scientologist Mark Rathbun. Likewise with Tom Cruise (Rob Alter). He wants to explore this strange religion to gain a genuine, informed insight into Scientology and its adherents. Many of them are probably good people, he muses over a shot of a huge crowd of them at a ritzy presentation. He also includes the blanket denials of all allegations made against the church.

Not only can't he get access to the reclusive Miscavige, he can't even deliver a letter at the security hut at the gate ... He is immediately confronted by staff who order him off the approach road - which they claim is private but turns out to be a public. There are two such confrontations, both show the agitated and abrasive behaviour of the staff; Theroux leaves these in to underline what we would surely interpret as paranoid behavior. It's either paranoid - or there is something to hide. What's to hide? Well, that's where Rathbun and fellow ex-Scientologist executive Tom De Vocht come in.

He also shows the re-enactment scenes in a wide shot, so we see the set, the filming apparatus and crew; we also get to see the camera 'gunfights' between his and the church's crews.

Airing by now familiar stories about the inner workings of Scientology and how it 'brainwashes' adherents (at their own expense, and lots of it), the most damaging information paints the religion more like a feral cult, a self-preserving organism that has no scruples pursuing and demonizing those who speak against it - or worse, escape its clutches, like Rathbun (a member for 25 years) and De Vocht. The apostates of Scientology have everything to fear from the organization, they say, which doesn't sound too dissimilar to Islam.

Indeed, it is De Vocht who describes the deeply held beliefs of the Scientologist as being akin in their power to radicalize its members to those who fly airplanes into buildings. And it is Rathbun who once referred to 'Ayatollah Miscavige' ...

The faux military uniforms (navy) worn by the top brass, the military salutes (eg Tom Cruise to Miscavige at one of the big gala events) and the industrial strength productions that cater to thousands of members in gaudy theatrical settings, are posthumously observed by the large, eminently positioned portrait of science fiction writer turned Scientology founder, L. Ron Hubbard.

Theroux's mild mannered presence belies a steely determination to get inside the processes and mindset, and the result is variously scary, ridiculous and almost unbelievable. How can so many people be so successfully sold a notion of the universe built on such ludicrous posturings ... but then we realize, all the greatest cons in the world (including all the religions) are so based. But at least other religions worship a god ...

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(UK/US, 2015)

CAST: Documentary featuring Louis Theroux, Mark 'Marty' Rathbun, Tom De Vocht as themselves; and actors Rob Alter, Andrew Perez, Conner Stark

PRODUCER: Simon Chin

DIRECTOR: John Dower

SCRIPT: John Dower, Louis Theroux


EDITOR: Paul Carlin

MUSIC: Dan Jones

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Alessandro Marvelli

RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 8, 2016

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