Louis Theroux gets current Scientologists on film in “My Scientology Movie,” a documentary in which he appears but does not direct. (It’s directed by Theroux’s co-screenwriter, John Dower.) There is footage of members of the church calling former member Marty Rathbun a “suppressive person” and harassing him as he arrives at an airport.
There is also footage of church members filming Theroux as he makes his documentary and demanding that he turn off his cameras. Theroux, in turn, says he will turn off his if they turn off theirs. The battle of the cameras becomes almost schoolyard absurd.
As he arrives near their land in rural California, they tell him that the road belongs to them, so they call the police. Theroux contends that the road is public and later receives a permit to film there. Members of the church meet him again (all the while filming him while he films them) to claim once again that he’s trespassing on a private road.
Interestingly, the woman who insists Theroux is trespassing is the ex-wife of Jeff Hawkins, one of Theroux’s interviewees, a man who left the church and who corroborates many of Rathbun’s claims. Hawkins contends that his ex, Catherine Fraser, is essentially a good person who has been brainwashed.
There is also footage of a car that appears to have followed Theroux for more than four hours.
Besides these intimidation tactics, much of what is brought to light in “My Scientology Movie” is stuff we’ve heard before, such as claims that people kept in the confined area called “the hole” cannot escape the fences without sensors going off that then set off alarms.
One of the more interesting devices employed by Theroux is the casting of actors to play David Miscavige (the head of Scientology since L. Ron Hubbard’s death), Tom Cruise, and other members of the church. We’re shown some of the actor auditions, which are done in the presence of Rathbun, who was a top official within the church. You might remember him from Alex Gibney’s film, “Going Clear.”
Once casting is complete, Rathbun directs the actors in reenacting scenes that he experienced while within the church, including violent outbursts by Miscavige. Hawkins tells Theroux about having been beaten by Miscavige on numerous occasions. Of course, the church vehemently denies such violence ever took place. Kudos to actor Andrew Perez, however, who portrays Miscavige with fierce believability.
During production, Theroux received a threatening letter from the church’s lawyers. Somehow, they had heard that he was casting Miscavige with Rathbun present. Was one of the actors a plant, or did one of them talk to someone?
During production, Rathbun proved to be a contentious character who was easily offended by Theroux’s questions, especially when Theroux asked him about being complicit in the physical and emotional violence while he remained in the church. You could take Rathbun’s behavior as evidence that he isn’t credible, or you could take it as a representation of the damage he suffered from Scientology’s grip.
Rathbun says that he can’t have a normal life because the church continues to harass him, as well as his family, and has done so for more than 25 years. Since we see evidence of this on film in “My Scientology Movie,” it’s hard to question him on this point.
If you have an interest in the claims made against Scientology, I recommend this film, which is an interesting progression from “Going Clear.” It’s done with much more humor, but it still packs quite a scathing punch.