I am late to the party with my thoughts about Alex Gibney’s Going Clear The Prison Of Belief, not being as diligent as Tony Ortega, who despite NOT being a “former Scientologist” nevertheless has the work ethic of a dedicated Sea Org member.
There are numerous media accounts of the film and the premiere and I will not try and recount everything, because I don’t want to spend hours rehashing what has already been said by others. And frankly, nobody else’s take on the movie is going to have the same meaning to you as you will get when you have the opportunity to see it. Which is itself high praise, as this movie is layered and while it packs the punch of a sledgehammer, it is also extremely subtle and a lot of things contained within it will strike chords, but probably no two the same. I can tell you that Marc Headley was not the only one who cried during the movie. I think ANYONE who has been in or effected by the church is going to have some moist-eyed moments.
I told Alex after watching it that I felt he had done the subject great justice, that if I had started with a clean slate I could not have come close to achieving what he had done. And that I appreciated the fact that he made each person who is featured in the film empathetic. Of course, there are plenty of things in there that are embarrassing to me to see in hindsight, including my participation in We Stand Tall (anyone who knows me knows I can neither sing nor dance — and I no longer wear ugly sweaters). But it is so easy to simply leave the viewer with the impression that former scientologists are “kooks” or “dupes” or “bitter haters.” It’s been done plenty of times in the past, along with the easy sensationalist grabs of celebrities or Xenu. Alex and Larry took the time and made the effort to explain WHY someone would get involved in scientology and what it offers and how things turn sour. So viewers can identify “oh, I can see how that could have been me” rather than “I would never fall for that shit.” The proof of that is the standing ovation from the crowd when Alex asked those featured in the movie to join him at the front of the theater after the movie ended. And the dozens of people who walked up to me and others afterwards to thank us for our participation.
The approach makes the stories and revelations of the abuses more understandable, believable and hard hitting.
Of course the media grabs onto the Nicole Kidman wiretapping story, but it is a tiny piece of the 2 hour film.
Tom Cruise and John Travolta are going to be asked a lot of questions by a lot of people. They have been put on the spot to explain why they keep promoting scientology but do nothing to speak out about the abuses.
Nobody will ask David Miscavige anything because he is hidden behind walls, security and a phalanx of sycophants. But he is going to have to watch the movie and know the walls are truly closing in.
Because the most significant point about this movie is that it paves the way for other media to tell more stories. It has opened the door to a flood of others who have been intimidated into not devoting the time to cover the abuses of scientology.
There is no question that there is a reservoir of pent up resentment about the church in the media. Apart from the interviews we did, a LOT of media people talked privately off the record about how happy they were to see the church taken on in this manner. Literally walking up and introducing themselves and saying “I am so happy to see these assholes exposed for what they really are.”
The church response has been predictable. A feeble Freedom magazine splurge of “D/A the sources” and complain how Alex Gibney refused to “talk” to the 25 people they had sitting in New York to “see him.” This is supposed to prove he would not listen to the “truth” — but it is typical scientology sleaze. The church REFUSED to let anyone be interviewed on camera — in fact the closing credits list people they specifically asked for interviews that declined. I have said it before, if you are making a documentary FILM you need people on CAMERA. The church refuses, then whines “they won’t talk to us.”
This movie is a watershed.
I salute Alex Gibney, Larry Wright and HBO Documentary Films. They have made a movie that will help a LOT of people.