2015 | 1 hour 39 minutes | Dir. John Dower | BBC Films
If you only watch one documentary about Scientology this month, make it My Scientology Movie.
My Scientology Movie follows BBC journalist Louis Theroux on his quest to speak with a Scientologist. After trying “for months” to participate in Scientology, Theroux settles for re-creating the stories of ex- Scientologists, particularly Marty Rathbun.
The film becomes a portrait of Marty. The 60- year- old served as Inspector General of the Religious Technology Center in the Church of Scientology. He called himself “Mr. Fix- It”; some accounts call him church leader David Miscavige’s #2. After allegedly spending three days being abused at the church’s “reeducation” complex known as The Hole, Marty split and offered Scientologist therapies to independent Scientologists before becoming publicly outspoken. He’s not friendly and confronts Louis on several occasions.
Louis eventually does get Scientologists to speak. They say things like “you can’t film here,” “tell him to stop filming”, “you’re trespassing”, and “get off our property”. To Marty, they say things like “why don’t you get a life”, “nobody gives a fuck about you”, “you’re nothing” , “you are embarrassing and pathetic”, “you’re disgusting”, and “what a loser”. Louis uses Rathbun’s YouTube footage in the film, but you can also see it here. The speakers claim Rathbun “verbally attacked” them at LAX airport prior to the video, but he says nothing during their mutually filmed two- minute interaction. The tussle seems scarily like the “bulbing” drill depicted in the film, where a proctor physically and verbally abuses a subject until the subject gives no reaction.
Active Scientologists appear only as bullies and bystanders. They turn the cameras on Louis to make him “see himself”. Granted, Louis does throw around terms like “Sea Org”, which Scientologists deny. As per usual, the Church of Scientology calls My Scientology Movie “ridiculous and untrue”. Lawyers spare no breath telling filmmakers what is untrue. But what is true? What can we believe about Scientology when the members attack curiosity? Why does a “religious retreat” have a blade wire fence around it? How can we see an elusive figure like David Misgovich as anything other than violent when he won’t appear on camera? (Miscavige’s last public interview was in 1992). If “embittered” exes like Leah Remini, Marty Rathbun, Mark Hadley and Jeff Hawkins tell lies, who tells the truth?
Louis Theroux does his darndest to find the soft side of Scientology. In the end, Theroux says the doc drew “all kinds of stalker-ish emissaries and cranks out of the woodwork, not one of them doing much to reassure us that Scientology is in fact cuddly, socially progressive or misunderstood”. The real blow comes when a group of “squirrel busters” harass Marty on set and dig at his adopted son and unemployment.
“I live this life where I can’t really share what happens to me on a day- to- day basis, because if I do it freaks people out. We can’t make friends. It’s very difficult to say ‘hey, come on over for a BBQ but realize that you might be surveilled and it might be going into the archive of the most pernicious, dangerous cult the Western world has known in the past 50 years.”
Rathbun ripped the doc a new one on his blog. The documentary and its aftermath prove one thing: Scientology ruined Rathbun’s life.
At least My Scientology Movie tries to shed light on a dark organization in an upbeat way. File My Scientology Movie under Least Scary Movie About A Scary Cult.