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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that My Scientology Movie is a 2015 documentary in which broadcast journalist Louis Theroux attempts to find a way into the inner workings of Scientology. There are some tense and violent moments, including a disturbing scene in which actors who have been hired to portray some of the highest-ranking members of Scientology show what behavior is alleged to take place inside "The Hole," an office meeting room in which members are forced to stay for days and nights at a time while enduring verbal, mental, and physical abuse from, among others, the leader of Scientology. There's screaming, cursing, slapping, as actors are forced to crawl and lick the floor, among other indignities. There's frequent use of "f--k" and variations. Many tense altercations between Theroux and some of his interview subjects, as well as between Theroux and Scientologists demanding that he vacates what they say is their property. While practitioners of Scientology will be displeased by what is presented in this documentary, this should inspire discussion among families as to how information and the truth are pursued by documentarians, and the media as a whole.
What's the story?
In MY SCIENTOLOGY MOVIE, documentary filmmaker Louis Theroux attempts to gain access into the inner-workings of Scientology. Stonewalled and faced with legal threats at nearly every turn, he meets former high-ranking Scientologists who explain the methods and manners in which members are broken down physically and mentally then rebuilt and torn down again in a cult-like atmosphere where dissent and questioning isn't possible and some who left Scientology began to feel like they were being forced to stay against their will. With the help of former Scientologists, Theroux hires actors to portray Tom Cruise (Scientology's most famous practitioner) and Scientology leader David Miscavige to recreate some of Scientology's practices. Tensions flare as Scientology appears to be behind sending cameras to film Theroux and former Scientologists, even going so far as to make veiled threats against the children of one of these former Scientologists. Through reenactments, interviews, footage, and direct experience, the documentary finds a way to reveal some of the inner and outer workings of one of the most controversial organizations in the world.
Is it any good?
In his attempt to penetrate the inner workings of one of the most aggressively secretive religious organizations in the world, Theroux is persona non grata by The Church of Scientology. The journey is the destination in My Scientology Movie, as Theroux must find more creative ways in which to learn what transpires deep within the church. Almost immediately, the sense of fear and paranoia comes through -- foreboding tweets from Theroux's followers warn him to, in so many words, lawyer up and watch his back. An interview with a former Scientologist in Theroux's Los Angeles poolside apartment only increases this paranoia when the actress Paz de la Huerta happens to stroll by and assume Theroux is using his camera phone to film her in a bikini instead of his actual interview subject. What emerges as the film goes on is a sense of tyranny from both the hierarchy as well as its cult-like practices.
While there are some moments of documentary and "reality show" gimmickry -- conflicts heightened for the sake of entertainment, spectacle to show an outcome in which we already know the answer -- the truth of what we know as mere "wogs" (outsiders to Scientology) does broaden despite all of Scientology's stonewalling, bullying, and psychological warfare. Theroux is not cowed by their tactics -- they seem to drive him to dig that much deeper and try that much harder to get an understanding of the hows and whys, the ins and outs, and the methodology employed by Scientologists of all levels.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about documentaries. What are the ways in which Theroux tries to present factual information in an engaging manner in My Scientology Movie?
Is it possible to disseminate information through media without bias? If not, can information still be presented in a factual manner, as long as audiences have an awareness of any biases at work?
How is this similar to other documentary films on controversial topics?
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