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Directed by Joh Dower
Review by Gilbert Seah
As the title implies, MY SCIENTOLOGY MOVIE is a cheaply made kind of tacky documentary on the subject of Scientology.
The film is written by and stars Brit. Louis Theroux, who is in almost every frame. It is kind of odd to see a Brit making an American documentary and is is comical to see how he infuriates many of his subjects – even those working with him. (Theroux raises questions about Rathbun’s, (a former Scientology senior member) own complicity in the church’s “terroristic” activities, leading to tensions between the two men.) Theroux had long sought to make a documentary about the Church of Scientology from the inside but was repeatedly refused by church officials. In 2011 his producer, Simon Chinn, suggested making a 90-minute feature about Scientology. Together with director John Dower, they looked for ways to make a documentary, without access to its subjects. To be different form other documentaries, they used the idea of “negative access”, illustrating the church by provoking a reaction from it.
In this documentary, the audience sees Theroux teaming up with former senior church official Mark Rathburn (called ‘Matty”) to create dramatic reconstructions of incidents within the church witnessed by Rathbun and other ex-Scientologists. They focus in particular on alleged violent behaviour by the church’s leader David Miscavige at its secretive Gold Base facility in California, which Theroux visits. They interview several actor to play the part of both Tom Cruise and Miscavige in order to react certain scenes. The actors doing the parts and coming for auditions bare an uncanny resemblance to the real people. The church retaliates by putting Theroux and his film crew under surveillance, leading to camera-wielding confrontations with a Scientology “squirrel buster” team and with church officials outside Gold Base.
A few of the re-enactments – such as the abuse by Miscavide towards his senior staff are shown. Theroux and Matty are shown in the background nodding in approval. But the entire doc that they made is never really shown but only bits and pieces of what they did, as well as them filming themselves and hastily assembled into this movie. All this looks like a bad patch up with no head or tail.
It is courageous to see the filmmakers to take a different approach to their Scientology doc but nothing is achieved that the audience has not see before. Alex Gibney had made the much better GOING CLEAR – SCIENTOLOGY AND THE PRISON OF BELIEF where Gibney circled the movement right from its beginnings, seeking to analyze its methods and impugn its motives. Gibney had footage of the real Tom Cruise and John Travolta. MY SCIENTOLOGY MOVIE, in contrast had to rely for on only one man, Matty all their information.
MY SCIENTOLOGY MOVIE turns out as annoying as Theroux its star. If one wants to know about Scientology, it is best to rent the Alex Gibney GOING CLEAR video. MY SCIENTOLOGY MOVIE just goes nowhere and gets there pretty fast.
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