Feb 12, 2017

'A utopian vision': Doc-maker explores the secrets of Scientology

My Scientology Movie
Jackie Dunham
February 8, 2017

In the hopes of shedding light on the notoriously secretive Church of Scientology, British journalist Louis Theroux explored its secretive world in a unique documentary called “My Scientology Movie.”

“I’ve seen so much about Scientology that convinces me that there’s something really bizarre about it, but what I hadn’t seen before was something that attempted to explain the appeal of it and so that’s what I tried to do,” Theroux explained to CTV News Channel on Wednesday from London, U.K.

To tell the story, Theroux hired young actors to re-enact stories gleaned from his interviews with former Scientologists. But, during the process of making his “reverse-investigative” documentary, Theroux said members of the Church began following him and his crew and filming them without explanation. He said Scientologists would hurl insults at the film’s contributors. Those confrontations wound up in the movie too, he said, revealing more about the Church than Theroux thought he would be able to learn.

Theroux explained that, unlike other established religions, such as Christianity, where followers are taught to “turn the other cheek,” Scientologists are encouraged to go on the offensive in a policy called “Fair Game.” Theroux said members are required to confront “S.P.s” or “Suppressive People.”

The Church of Scientology was founded by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard in the 1950s. According to the Church of Scientology’s website, Scientology is a “religion that offers a precise path leading to a complete and certain understanding of one’s true spiritual nature and one’s relationship to self, family, groups, Mankind, all life forms, the material universe, the spiritual universe and the Supreme Being.”

Theroux developed his own interpretation of Scientology during the making of his documentary.

“It’s a faith, like so many faiths, that’s really built on idealism and the urge towards self-sacrifice,” Theroux said. “But in essence, it’s a utopian vision and an almost absolutist utopian vision.”

Theroux said he suspects it has taken on a more extreme fundamentalist tone under its current leader David Miscavige. Theroux found that there isn’t any middle ground for dedicated Scientologists and he quoted its most famous member, Tom Cruise, to clarify the point.

“You’re either on the pitch playing or get out of the arena,” Theroux quoted.

The journalist said that he believes part of the appeal of Scientology is that it provides members with a purpose in life.

“They get a mission,” he said. “They get a universe-changing mission. They’re part of an intergalactic soap opera that spans millennia in which they are playing a key role in saving mankind.”

Theroux said, throughout his career, he has always attempted to see the human qualities in people who are traditionally viewed as suspect or extreme, including Scientologists.

“What I’ve noticed over the years in doing stories about the extremes is that the weirdest thing about weird people is how normal they are and Scientology is no different,” he said.

“My Scientology Movie” will be screened in Victoria, Toronto, Calgary, Salt Spring and Ottawa in select theatres in February, March and April.


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