Film Reviews

Review: ‘My Scientology Movie’

Hot Docs 16

Courtesy of Hot Docs


My Scientology Movie
(UK, 100 min.)
Dir. John Dowler and Louis Theroux
Programme: Special Presentations (Canadian Premiere)

The only film about Scientology that suggests its aggressive therapeutic methods might benefit people is P.T. Anderson’s The Master, which depicts a fictional cultish group suggested by L. Ron Hubbard’s strange creation. Alex Gibney’s doc, Going Clear, played the story straight, emphasizing the alleged violence and abuse underneath a glitzy show-biz surface.

British doc-maker Louis Theroux, working with director John Dowler, also raises the scary issue of beatings and psychological torture in the name of religion. But he does so in a style more Michael Moore than Gibney. The picture, which he co-wrote and stars in, could be called Scientology and Me.

Wanting to make a doc about the movement, Theroux tries to access its weirdly gung-ho supreme leader, David Miscavige, and fails. No doubt influenced by The Act of Killing, he decides to audition actors as Miscavige and uber scientologist Tom Cruise, using the actual words of these men as script. Former organisation top gun Marty Rathbun helps Theroux and the actors get close to reality, and My Scientology Movie moves into the realm of bemused satire. When the organisation strikes back, filming the filmmakers and making threats, satire merges into mock L.A. noir with Theroux as the endangered investigator. From start to finish, the doc relays its exposé with verve and personality.

My Scientology Movie screens:
-Sunday, May 1 at Cineplex Scotiabank at 4:00 PM
-Tuesday, May 3 at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 10:30 AM
-Sunday, May 8 at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 6:15 PM

Please visit the POV Hot Docs hub for more coverage on this year’s festival.

Hot Docs runs April 28 – May 8. Visit www.hotdocs.ca for more information.

Maurie Alioff writes about movies for publications off- and on-line, and is a screenwriter currently collaborating on a documentary featuring Bob Marley’s granddaughter while researching other Jamaica-related projects, including a magical-realist crime story drawing on stories he hears on the island. He has written for radio, journals and TV, taught screenwriting and been a contributing editor to various magazines.

View all articles by Maurie Alioff »