HBO Documentary on Scientology – ‘Going Clear’ – Receives Standing Ovation at Sundance

HBO Documentary on Scientology – ‘Going Clear’ – Receives Standing Ovation at Sundance

Jan 26


L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology, in the office of his Sussex home, December 1959.


By Christopher Rosen
The Huffington Post
January 26, 2015

Original Link

After Alex Gibney’s new documentary, “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief,” debuted to a standing ovation at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, representatives for the Church of Scientology slammed the film as “false information.”

“The Church has documented evidence that those featured in Gibney’s film regurgitating their stale, discredited allegations are admitted perjurers, admitted liars and professional anti-Scientologists whose living depends on the filing of false claims. All have been gone so long from the Church they know nothing of it today. Yet Gibney and HBO stonewalled more than a dozen requests by the Church to offer relevant information about them, with more than 25 individuals with firsthand information eager to speak. To this day, neither HBO nor Gibney can deny that they have yet to present the Church with a single allegation from the film so the Church may have an opportunity to respond. The Church never sought special treatment, only fair treatment.”

Gibney’s film, based on a book by Lawrence Wright, includes multiple allegations against the Church of Scientology and its most high-profile member, Tom Cruise.

“Cruise is one of those who emerges from this the worst; Gibney’s film makes the claim that the actor’s reluctance to distance himself from the faith was the key factor in his split with Nicole Kidman,” wrote Brian Moylan in a review of “Going Clear” for The Guardian. “Footage of Cruise from official church events and video is chopped and spliced to put him in as dubious a light as possible; the film also accuses him of using Scientologist workers paid 40 cents an hour to trick out his cars and houses.”

As Marlow Stern at The Daily Beast noted, Gibney’s film includes an interview with Mark “Marty” Rathbun, “formerly the second-highest ranking official in the Church of Scientology who left in 2004,” who alleges that Scientology leader David Miscavige disliked Kidman on account of her psychologist father. According to the film, Cruise apparently had Kidman’s phone tapped before the couple’s eventual divorce.

HuffPost Entertainment contacted a representative for Cruise to comment on the allegations; this post will be updated if and when they respond.

As for the film itself, critics were enamored with Gibney’s work. “Going Clear” was hailed as “jaw-dropping” and a “game changer.” It will air on HBO in March. “We have probably 160 lawyers [looking at the film],” HBO’s president of documentary films, Sheila Nevins, told The Hollywood Reporter in December.


By Josh Dickey
January 26, 2015

Original Link

It’s one thing to read former Scientology members’ scattershot tales of abuse, intimidation and mind-control, and quite another to see them pour their out hearts onscreen.

And that’s the principle offering from Going Clear: The Prison of Belief, Alex Gibney’s exquisitely well-constructed documentary that will pack a wallop for those unfamiliar with the sordid tale, but do little to enlighten those who know it well.

A pastiche of fascinatingly candid talking heads, news footage and archival video of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and his forceful, reptilian successor David Miscavige, Going Clear premiered Sunday afternoon at the Sundance Film Festival.

The film received a rousing standing ovation as a large contingent of the documentary’s filmmakers and interviewees took the stage — plaudits that were as much for their courage in the face of the church’s harassment campaigns as they were for Gibney, the decorated director of The Armstrong Lie, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and Wikileaks: We Steal Secrets.

There’s something impactful about seeing mature, intelligent, well-spoken men and women onscreen — who seem like perfectly reasonable, critical-thinking human beings — speak at length about their experience in an organization that is anything but. Most of their stories, however, have been out for years; stories of being essentially imprisoned, beaten, brainwashed and financially ruined at the hands of charismatic but deeply paranoid and power-hungry church leaders.

They include some of Miscavige’s top former lieutenants, who openly admit to doing many of the foul deeds that the church denies to this day: stalking, harassment, abuse and intense manipulation tactics that are so egregious, so insidious, that it’s hard to believe Scientology still retains some 50,000 members in the social age (down from a peak of about 100,000 in the early ‘90s).

The film starts with one of the most clear-eyed, lucid descriptions of Scientology’s origins and beliefs ever committed to page or screen — and that’s no easy feat, considering how convoluted and unapproachable its constructs can be. It is a perfect primer for what goes on there, and the utterly insane revelations that await members who must commit several years (and several thousand dollars) before becoming privy to them.

It’s also a comprehensive look at Hubbard himself, a man who not often allowed himself to be filmed. The interviews he did give along the way are here, including an “off the record” conversation with a TV crew in which he openly complains that the “auditing” process has fallen into disarray since he gave up on overseeing it personally.

Going Clear is chock with nightmarish truths about Scientology, but many of which we’ve seen before, or could easily find online. The value here is that Gibney is a master curator, expertly piecing together the infamous Tom Cruise video; footage from the church’s annual confabs; personal clips from former church members’ interactions with professional harassers; visual representations of its tax records; and then gluing it all together with engaging interviews and images of an “E-meter” needle nervously bouncing from side to side.

The film is as up-to-date as such a thing might be: Its last section details the church’s explosive (and lucrative) acquisition of real estate around the globe, as well as the pending possibility that its dubious tax-exempt status could soon be revisited.

There’s no doubt that casual Scientology observers will find jaw-dropping revelations in Going Clear, which already feels like canon in a deeply fascinating saga. But how cool would it have been to break some news here?


Associated Press
January 25, 2015

Original Link

“Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief” premiered Sunday at the Sundance Film Festival to a packed house — not with a star-studded red carpet, but with police protection.

A week before the premiere, the Church of Scientology took out full-page ads in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times claiming the documentary is filled with falsehoods.

Based on Lawrence Wright’s 2013 book of the same name, Oscar winner Alex Gibney’s film claims that the church routinely intimidates, manipulates and even tortures its members, tracing the rise of the religion and its founder, former science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, and his successor as head of the church, David Miscavige. Gibney also interviewed several former Scientology believers, including past executives.

Paul Haggis, the Oscar-winning director of “Crash,” left the church in 2009 after decades of membership.

“I was really stupid. I was part of this for 30 years before I spoke out,” he says in the film. “I was deeply ashamed.”

As Haggis climbed “the bridge” to the most enlightened levels of Scientology, he finally learned Hubbard’s ultimate theory: That a tyrannical galactic overlord named Xenu dropped frozen bodies from millions of years ago into volcanoes, and those spirits attach themselves to modern people today. Scientology is the means of ridding the body and mind of those spirits to become “clear.”

Another former member who left the church in 2013 said its approach is “like brainwashing.”

Several former church members featured in the film attended Sunday’s premiere. Two said they were followed to Utah by Scientology investigators, who photographed them at the Salt Lake City airport.

The Church of Scientology released a statement Sunday that characterizes these former believers as “the usual collection of obsessive, disgruntled former Church members kicked out as long as 30 years ago for malfeasance, who have a documented history of making up lies about the Church for money.”

The church says Gibney refused to meet with the 25 members it offered as sources. Gibney says the church declined all requests for interviews, as did Miscavige, John Travolta and Tom Cruise, both of whom are Scientologists.

The film traces Cruise’s relationship with the church, and claims it intentionally broke up his marriage with Nicole Kidman because she was not a believer. Scientology’s biggest celebrity spokesman was largely absent from the church during his nearly 10-year marriage to Kidman.

Members deemed to have somehow erred against the church were subject to degradation and torture, according to the film. They were deprived of sleep, fed scraps and forced to do hard labor. Sometimes they were beaten. One man was required to mop a bathroom floor with his tongue.

Gibney and Wright said the church has threatened them with litigation. Former members said they’ve fared far worse: They’ve been slandered online, followed, filmed and seen their loved ones stalked and intimidated.

Former Scientology spokesman and senior executive Mike Rinder said he hopes the film will raise public awareness about the church’s methods: “I would love it if the FBI, after seeing this film, said, ‘We need to do something more energetic.'”


By Bilge Ebiri
January 25, 2015

Original Link

The revelations in Alex Gibney’s new documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief won’t come as a huge surprise to folks who’ve read Lawrence Wright’s devastating, similarly titled book-length exposé. But any way you cut it, this is still spectacular stuff. The film, which will air on HBO in March, debuted at Sundance to a jam-packed overflow audience and a rousing standing ovation — not to mention the sight of fest volunteers forming a human chain around Gibney, Wright, and their subjects at the end of their post-screening Q&A, presumably as a safety precaution. (There were no evident Scientology protesters at the screening, though one interview subject did note that he and another interviewee were photographed by the same person at the Salt Lake City airport.)

The film starts, much like the book does, with writer-director and longtime Scientology adherent Paul Haggis discussing how he was drawn to the cult in the early 1970s, a lost, lovesick young man and aspiring filmmaker looking for meaning and entertaining a healthy sense of curiosity. Much of the first section of the film, however, discusses Scientology founder and sci-fi novelist L. Ron Hubbard’s rather nutty life and career, as well as the ways in which so much of Scientology’s belief system reflects aspects of the sci-fi genre — stuff that makes for entertaining, imaginative worlds as fiction, but sounds crazy when presented as fact.

Several of Gibney’s interview subjects were at the topmost levels of Scientology — including Marty Rathbun, who was essentially the church’s second-in-command and chief enforcer for many years — and they offer insights into how Scientology actively pursues celebrities, and the tactics by which it keeps them bound. Among these celebs, of course, are the church’s two crown jewels, Tom Cruise and John Travolta. Travolta, it’s suggested, is kept in the group because they have mountains and mountains of dirt on him, the result of years of spiritual “auditing” (the process by which Scientologists basically reveal their deepest secrets, which are then cataloged and brought out whenever someone needs some, uh, encouragement, as the Mafia likes to say). In Cruise’s case, he had actually put some distance between himself and Scientology in the 1990s, but the group insinuated itself back into his good graces by working overtime to wreck his marriage to Nicole Kidman, who had always been skeptical of them.

Why do people even get wrapped up in such a crazy cult? As the film makes clear, Scientology presents itself initially as a set of tools to help you live a better, freer, more purposeful life. Unlike other religions, it doesn’t actually tell you what its core belief system is until you’ve spent years and years (and, most likely, tens of thousands of dollars, maybe even more) as a member. It’s only when you ascend the Bridge and get to that Operating Thetan level that you’re given the sacred text — L. Ron Hubbard’s handwritten notes explaining humanity’s crazy backstory, about how Earth is a slave planet, how humans were brought here billions of years ago by the intergalactic dictator Xenu, placed in volcanoes and blown up with hydrogen bombs, etc. (When he finally read Hubbard’s notes, Haggis says he thought, “Maybe it’s an insanity test? Maybe if you believe this, they kick you out?” No such luck.)

It’d be funny, if it weren’t so tragic. As Going Clear posits, for all the crazy mumbo-jumbo, Scientology is also a brutal, heavily retaliatory organization. Its current leader, David Miscavige, who took over after L. Ron Hubbard’s death, sticks to the founder’s credo, “Never defend, always attack.” The brave souls who spoke out for Wright and for Gibney, some of whom were at the uppermost levels of the organization, have been harassed, followed, threatened. But many of those still in the religion fare worse, with elaborate punishments that would be considered assault and torture if you or I did it, but in Scientology’s case are protected under the First Amendment protection of religions. (Indeed, the group spent decades trying to get the IRS to classify it as a religious group and finally managed to get it done in part by launching a vast number of countersuits, then promising to pull them in return for religious-group designation.)

If Gibney’s film sometimes seems a little shapeless, that’s understandable: There’s a lot of stuff in Going Clear, and it doesn’t lend itself easily to a feature-length structure. The salacious celebrity stuff has to live alongside the sad tales of lesser-known individual members who had their families torn apart; the heavily modernized, fascistic recent iteration of the group has to live alongside Hubbard’s own kooky antics; the legal intricacies of Scientology’s defense have to live alongside the dramatic tales of surveillance. Gibney’s a bit like a kid in an exposé-candy store here, and you can sense him trying to cram as much as he can into the film. Good for him: Going Clear is jaw-dropping. You wouldn’t really want it any other way.


By Mike Ryan
Uproxx Movies
January 25, 2015

Original Link

Based on the book of the same name, Alex Gibney’s Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief is an absolute and utterly devastating takedown of Scientology.

Before even discussing the film, I need to write a little about the vibe surrounding this Sundance Film Festival screening: It was absolutely bananas. I’ve never seen anything quite like it in my (admittedly modest) four times at Sundance. Security was tight, because the ex-members of Scientology who were in the film and featured in the movie still fear for their safety.

The documentary itself doesn’t just pull punches, but delivers steroid-enhanced blows. Going Clear has one “clear” message: This is an evil and vindictive organization.

The film does explore L. Ron Hubbard’s early days — starting as a lowly writer making a penny a word, to writing Dianetics, a book that would make him wealthy. Eventually, that money dried up, so Hubbard took the next step and turned his book into a religious movement. As the years passed, Hubbard would then become delusional, paranoid and likely insane.

David Miscavige would then become the face of Scientology, as he still is today. And Going Clear doesn’t shy away from presenting Miscavige as a monster prone to blackmail, along with emotional and physical abuse. Often standing next to Miscavige in footage (he refused to be interviewed for the film) is Tom Cruise.

A good portion of the film focuses on Scientology’s most famous members, Tom Cruise and John Travolta. Travolta is the more sympathetic of the two; coming off more as a man trapped by what the “church” knows about his private demons. Cruise comes off terribly as a man who is well aware of the abuses going on — Scientology keeps a prison type facility known as “the hole” at one of its many bases — but does nothing to help. And that the people assigned to work for Cruise are paid very little to accommodate his every need.

Most fascinating is the testimony of Oscar-winning writer and director Paul Haggis, who very publicly left Scientology in 2009. He gives fantastic insight into why anyone would put themselves through such an ordeal — how it’s a bait and switch. You’re lured in with talk of self help, then, after investing a fortune, you learn about the more ridiculous components of the organization, like Xenu. (Haggis explains that when he first read this, he assumed if he bought into it he might get kicked out for being gullible or stupid.)

One of the biggest revelations is that Scientology is really low on members these days, hovering around 50,000. Thanks to tax exempt land deals, though, the church is more wealthy than it’s ever been. It’s presented as a shell of a very profitable scam.

Going Clear is a game changer as far as how Scientology will now be forever viewed culturally. The shift will happen from “bizarre and strange groups about aliens that Tom Cruise talks about” to something much more nefarious. A lot of this information has been out there, but never delivered so precisely and so devastatingly.


By Daniel Kreps
Rolling Stone
November 25, 2014

Original Link

HBO is readying a documentary that will take a penetrating look at the Church of Scientology and its influence in Hollywood. Going Clear, based on Lawrence Wright’s book Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief, is expected to air on the network in 2015, according to the Hollywood Reporter, with a premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January if finished in time.

Wright’s book features harsh revelations against the controversial religion courtesy of Oscar-winning filmmaker Paul Haggis, a longtime and high-ranking Church member who very publicly left Scientology in 2009. Filmmaker Alex Gibney, the Academy Award-winning documentarian behind Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson and Taxi to the Dark Side, will helm Going Clear.

HBO is expecting such a blowback from the Church that they have already hired a large legal team in anticipation. “We have probably 160 lawyers [looking at the film],” says HBO Documentary Films president Sheila Nevins told the Hollywood Reporter.

Scientologists protested in front of HBO’s New York headquarters in 1998 after the network aired Dead Blue: Surviving Depression, a documentary that supported the use of antidepressant drugs. (Scientologists are anti-antidepressants and other forms of psychiatry.) If Church members were that riled up about a documentary that had nothing to do with Scientology, HBO can expect an even bigger response when they put their religion in the spotlight.

Rolling Stone knows firsthand the wrath that follows any investigation into the enigmatic religion: After Janet Reitman’s scathing ASME-nominated feature “Inside Scientology” appeared in our March 9, 2006 issue, the article — which offered an in-depth, unforgiving look at the controversial religion — was loudly criticized by Scientology officials. The article was also expanded into the book Inside Scientology: The Story of America’s Most Secretive Religion, which was frequently cited in Wright’s Going Clear.

“Ms. Reitman’s book is filled with inaccuracies,” a spokesperson for the Church wrote in a statement. “It is neither scholarly nor well-researched and bears no resemblance to an ‘inside’ story.” Reitman, who spent five years working on the book, stood by her sources and reporting.



Sundance Film Festival
Pulse on Scientology
Wikipedia on Going Clear


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