Note: click on the links below to watch trailers and find out where these films are available.
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I encountered several critically acclaimed documentaries about cults this year. The lines between cult, ideology and religion are blurred while filmmakers tackle Scientology, the FLDS, Children Of God or smaller cults, but the effects on the followers are the same. They’re confused, frightened and angry once they begin to think for themselves, and each of them suffer consequences from fighting back.
Although each of these documentaries are unsettling in their own way, Holy Hell stayed with me the longest because Buddhafield’s leader (a man simply known as “Michel”) is a narcissistic nightmare whose face haunted me for days. I can only imagine how the survivors of his abuse feel.
A tangential addition to this category is the Sundance darling The Wolfpack, a film about seven siblings whose father kept them locked in their family apartment for fourteen years. Although this doesn’t necessarily constitute a cult situation, there are similar themes of oppression, brainwashing and an eventual strife for independence. How these kids’ lives came to be documented for this project is part of the journey as well, and I recommend you watch it to find out how.
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Bonus: Cults Can Show Up In Narrative Film Too… (Spoilers)
The Invitation – A man and his girlfriend are invited to his ex-wife’s home for a dinner party… only to realize they’ve been manipulated into a cult initiation. Whoops.
Forever – A young woman suffering a loss joins an isolated community to start over again… only to realize that it’s a suicide cult. Double whoops.