While all of Louis Theroux’s documentaries are daring, this may be his most dangerous one yet. Tweets warning Theroux flash across the screen at the beginning of My Scientology Movie. “Don’t go there, big man”, they warned but, as Theroux always does, he went there.
Theroux questions whether or not he can be the first journalist to show a positive side to the Church of Scientology. But, what we see throughout the 1hr 40min documentary makes us question if there is a positive side and if any journalist will ever be successful in showing it.
Theroux teams up with Marty Rathbun, the former General of the Religious Technology Centre of the Church of Scientology. Marty left the church in 2004 and has been hated by Scientologists for this betrayal ever since.
Theroux uses Rathbun to audition actors in LA to play key Scientology members (surprisingly Tom Cruise wasn’t up for this gig). His aim seems to be more about bringing up the former Scientology member’s memories of the leaders and events he witnessed than about actually making a film using the actors.
Directed by Rathbun, the actors read key statements from leaders of the Church. At one point Rathbun encourages the actors to get aggressive, to really get into the character of leader David Miscavige and Theroux almost ends up against a wall in the audition room.
The church gets wind of what Theroux is up to and he gets to experience first-hand the intimidation tactics of the Church of Scientology.
He is followed by a white car for hours and filmed by a man and women lingering outside the studio all day. In true Theroux fashion, he takes a camera outside and films them, questions them about what they are doing and eventually he has them running away.
Rathbun, although no stranger to the church’s intimidation techniques, is also threatened outside the studio by two men he believes were sent by the church. Theroux questions a visibly shaken Rathbun about his methods of intimidation during his position as General. It is at this point Theroux hits a nerve and almost seems to turn on his source.
A number of times Theroux tries to get near Gold Base, the Church of Scientology headquarters. Each time the police are called and he is chased off what appears to be a public road by a woman, declared a human guard dog by The Telegraph, Catherine Fraser.
Theroux encounters Fraser every time he attempts to get to Gold Base and each time, accompanied by her own camera man, she chases him off. Later in the documentary we are introduced to Fraser’s ex-husband, Jefferson Hawkins, a former member of the church. He talks to Theroux about his experience on the inside and his ex-wife. The cult-like nature of the church really hits home when Hawkins reveals, “I think she’s, at heart, a good person that’s trapped in a not so good system.”
The documentary is not so much an interesting insight into the Church of Scientology but rather an interesting insight into their reactions to someone snooping. And really, there is no better person to snoop than Louis Theroux.