Louis Theroux's documentary feature about Scientology, entitled My Scientology Movie, is nearing release, and its first teaser trailer was released yesterday via Entertainment Weekly.
The clip, which you can watch here, is an infuriating glimpse at the struggle Theroux had at gaining access to the church at all as he has tense interaction with a Scientologist named Catherine who does not want him to gain access to the Sea Org.
As Theroux attempts to gain access, showing Catherine his permit, she grows increasingly frustrated with him, claiming that the road is private, and also that the road is closed, threatening to call the police. While this is happening, a male who is with Catherine stands on silently, filming the interaction. Theroux and Catherine then bicker about who should turn the cameras off first.
In a statement about the film, Theroux details the difficulties he encountered while filming the documentary.
“More than 10 years ago, I approached the church to see if they might let me in to make a documentary,” he wrote.
“I thought I might be able to bring a sense of nuance and perspective to people’s understanding of a faith that has been much ridiculed. Just as I have done with other non-mainstream stories, I hoped to see it from the inside and make a human connection with its clerics and congregants. But I was repeatedly turned down.”
And while making the film, being turned down and denied access to church members became the least of Theroux's concerns, as he reveals the lengths Scientologists went to in order to intimidate him, saying: “In the course of making my film I came to believe I was being tailed by private investigators, someone in Clearwater, Florida (Scientology’s spiritual mecca) attempted to hack my emails, we were filmed covertly, I also had the police called on me more than once, not to mention a blizzard of legal letters from Scientology lawyers."
But even with these scare tactics, Theroux says that "at every step [he] remained open to Scientology’s good points and tried to see it for what it is: a system of belief that is not so different from other religions, capable of enlarging the soul as well as crushing the spirit.”
This is not the first time the church has been under fire in the media. Vanity Fair published an expose in 2012 after Katie Holmes left high-profile Scientologist Tom Cruise, entitled What Katie Didn't Know. Last year, HBO released a documentary entitled Going Clear, featuring several former Scientologists. Jenna Miscavige Hill, the niece of Scientology leader David Miscavige, wrote a scathing memoir about her experiences growing up in the church entitled Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and my Harrowing Escape. Actress Leah Remini, a former member of the church, has been vocal about her reasons for leaving the church.
The film, which premiered last year at the London Film Festival, will screen at the Tribeca Film Festival, and will differ from Theroux's previous documentaries, in that it will contain some re-enactments of situations that happened to former Scientology members.
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